, Salem, MA

Special Report

September 7, 2011

In a piece of steel, Salem firefighters make a connection

SALEM — A week after the towers fell, Manny Ataide joined the Army.

He was angry about the attacks and felt he had to do something. His ensuing service in the Reserves spanned eight years and included two deployments to Iraq, in 2003 and 2004.

Even after all that, Sept. 11, 2001, kept pushing Ataide to act. The Salem firefighter recently researched and found a way to bring a piece of that historic, world-altering event to his home city.

It is a steel sliver of the World Trade Center wreckage — 3 feet tall, it weighs about 100 pounds. Before arriving here, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey had stored it with the other twisted and charred debris from the tragedy in a hangar at Kennedy International Airport.

The steel is the centerpiece of a 9/11 memorial that Ataide and fellow firefighter Tom Brophy have worked to create in a narrow patch of soil beside the city's downtown fire station. It will be formally dedicated during a ceremony Sunday, the 10th anniversary of the attacks.

Though the two friends spearheaded the memorial, it turned into a labor of love for the whole department. Everyone was quick to donate time or materials to make it happen.

"It's amazing what we've got done in so little time," Brophy said. "If we didn't get the support from all the guys, then this thing would never have happened."

Brophy, 35, was a department dispatcher 10 years ago. He was trying to get some sleep after an overnight shift on the morning of Sept. 11 when his father roused him, saying, "You got to see this."

He remembers how quiet it was outside all day. No cars were on the road. Everybody was glued to their television.

At the urging of his father, a deputy fire chief who has since retired, Brophy used art to express solidarity with the New York City firefighters. He painted a large replica of the NYFD logo for the Salem station, which prominently featured the towers in its outline of New York's skyline.

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