WARNER ROBINS — A fire truck raised a giant American flag on Watson Boulevard as police escorted a piece of steel salvaged from the ruins of the World Trade Center to City Hall on Monday afternoon.
Mayor Randy Toms, police Chief Brett Evans and fire Chief Robert Singletary traveled to Covington on Monday morning to retrieve the steel relic of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. It will be on display at City Hall for generations to come.
"They had it in a case. When we opened the case and looked in and saw this piece of steel, it was awe- inspiring," Toms said to a small crowd gathered on the front lawn of City Hall. "You can't quite put into words how much something like this means, just to be able to be this close to something that is one of the most life-changing experiences for our nation."
The steel was moved from New York City to Covington by three Covington firefighters.
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Toms said he sent a letter to the Commissioner's Office of the Fire Department of New York City requesting the piece. The letter detailed how the steel would be displayed, what it would mean for the community, and "I added in what it meant to me personally as a 27-year firefighter. It held a special place in my heart," Toms said.
"They're real particular about who they give it away to. ... It was an interesting process."
The steel was moved to Warner Robins at no cost.
Joann Ford, who works in the tax office, was one of a handful of city employees who stepped outside for the arrival of the steel. Ford calls New York City home even though she has lived in Warner Robins since 1998. Ford said she had been in the towers several times and had friends and family who worked there.
"It's hard to put into words," Ford said. "It's painful. It's proud. It's a piece of home, but it's an awful piece."
Ford said she thinks about "all the souls that were lost," when she's reminded of Sept. 11, 2001.
Fire Chief Robert Singletary said the piece of steel is a portion of a high beam. The rest of the steel is stored in a warehouse in New York City.
Toms said the supply of historic steel is dwindling, and "it's becoming more and more rare to get a piece."
"It's like the next generation's John F. Kennedy (assassination). 'Where were you when?' " Toms said.
Despite early announcements about the steel being displayed on the front lawn of City Hall beside a veterans memorial, Toms said details about how and where it will be anchored are not yet certain.
"I'm looking forward to the opportunity of displaying this in the most honorable way that we can," Toms said. "This means an awful lot for ... people that will never get the chance to go to New York City and see the place where it happened. To have a piece of this come here is a pretty awesome thing."
To contact writer Laura Corley, call 744-4334 or follow her on Twitter @Lauraecor.