Somewhere in the rubble after the Twin Towers fell on Sept. 11, 2001, was a steel beam that a decade later would find a home in Huron County.
Wednesday evening, on the 12th anniversary of one of the most tragic events in American history, more than 200 spectators, dozens of firefighters and others gathered in Norwalk to dedicate a part of that beam as a memorial to the many lives lost.
“It was twisted. It was bent. It was tested. But it wasn’t destroyed,” Wakeman assistant fire Chief Sean Eschen said. Eschen was part of a group, mostly members of the Northern Ohio Fraternal Order of Leatherheads Society, that voyaged to New York to bring the beam here.
He and other firefighters and officials spoke at Wednesday’s hour-long ceremony on Shady Lane Drive, which featured a parade of fire trucks and ambulances and an overhead flight from a medical helicopter.
The Rev. Diane Carter, of Bellevue, was teaching in New York and was a volunteer firefighter the day the towers fell. She assisted in the Bronx and Queens before she was summoned downtown. In the days after Sept. 11, she volunteered at Freshkills Landfill on Staten Island, sorting through the debris.
The experienced inspired her to become a minister, and it eventually led her to serve at St. Paul’s United Church of Christ in Bellevue. “I am who I am today because of those experiences,” she said.
Despite the countless tragedies of 9/11, she said she also witnessed countless acts of love, compassion and caring. Above the acrid scent of burning buildings and airplane fuel, for instance, she smelled the gourmet food fed to dust-covered firefighters and police officers out of a shattered storefront.
Everywhere were signs of love, she said. Firefighters refused to leave the scene, taking naps along fences, while Red Cross volunteers covered them with blankets.
Stacks of water bottles and batteries and clothing were sent to New York from across the country. “I found hope in the midst of the ashes at Ground Zero,” she said.
The memorial dedicated Wednesday beside the Huron County Veterans Memorial serves as a marker for 9/11, as well as five Huron County firefighters killed in the line of duty.
Family members of Plymouth firefighter Mark Didion, who died in 1976, placed a wreath at the memorial, beside the wall bearing his name and the names of the four others.
Willard fire Chief Joe Reiderman chaired the committee with the Huron County Firefighters Association, which started pursuing the memorial project 10 years ago. Money and timing delayed the project over the past decade, he said. “The memory faded, but was not forgotten,” he said.
On Wednesday, it was realized, and it will forever memorialize the firefighters from Plymouth, Norwalk and Bellevue who died in the line of duty.
“The sacrifice they made to protect this county can never be repaid,” Reiderman said.
Huron County firefighters killed in the line of duty
• Chief William J. Bascom, Norwalk Fire Department — Died Feb. 2, 1929
• Chief Van Barklow, Bellevue Fire Department — Died Feb. 7, 1936
• Firefighter Edward Haas, Norwalk Fire Department — Died April 25, 1970
• Firefighter Mark A. Didion, Plymouth Fire Department — Died Dec. 19, 1976
• Lt. James E. Harvey, Bellevue Fire Department — Died Aug. 18, 1988