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9/11 World Trade Center artifacts to come to the Island

An artist’s rendering shows the art in front of the new Fire Station 92.  - Contributed art
An artist’s rendering shows the art in front of the new Fire Station 92.
— image credit: Contributed art

The Mercer Island Fire Department will this Thursday, June 26, receive artifacts from the September 11, 2001 bombing of the World Trade Center — a part of the floor and ceiling sections of one tower garage, and a post between the two that will eventually be incorporated into an art installation and placed in front of the newly remodeled Fire Station 92. A small ceremony will be held at 4 p.m. at the North Fire Station.

The Island was awarded the very last artifacts from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, said Amber Britton of the city's Parks and Recreation Department, and when the pieces arrive they will be received appropriately.

“We want to show our due sense of respect,” said Fire Chief Chris Tubbs.

The artifacts shipped last week after they were cut into pieces at a Brooklyn studio and boarded onto trucks. They will likely stop in Spokane, where the International Association of Firefighters will be meeting.

“We will be escorting the piece before it arrives on Mercer Island and we will have firefighters in Class A uniforms, an honor guard and pipes and drums on hand to receive the piece,” wrote Tubbs in an email last week. “We will also likely have a large flag draped across 78th using two ladder trucks.”

Island firefighters have a personal connection to Ground Zero. Battalion Chief Shawn Matheson was deployed to rescue efforts in September of 2001.

“For the law enforcement community this event continues to resonate within our industry,” says Tubbs, “because it was a significant event not only in loss of life...but in the fundamental changes that came about after the event.”

Similar installations in other Eastside cities, have caused some controversy. A bronze sculpture made from steel from the World Trade Center and stone from the Pentagon has struggled to find a home after plans fell through for its installation at Heritage Park in Olympia and Kirkland residents vocally opposed it, arguing it had no local connection.

Tubbs acknowledges that early in discussions, some Islanders questioned the local connection. It's a fair argument, he says, and he hopes the art piece will continue to generate conversation.

“Every community has a connection to 9/11 and that's part of the purpose of having the piece here—the lessons we believe we can still learn from that event,” explains Tubbs.

The artist-architect team will cut away the floor sections and incorporate the post into their final designs. The remaining pieces—two concrete floor sections—are not fully planned for yet, but they will likely be commissioned for a separate art project. Shipping the artifacts has been one of the most challenging details to coordinate because of the cost of the cross-country trip.

But for Tubbs, witnessing the arrival of these artifacts is the culmination of two important projects—the arts installation that will eventually go outside Fire Station 92 and the wrapping of the remodeled station, now about 50 percent complete.

A side view of the art at the new Fire Station 92 (contributed art).

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