Nanaimo gets piece of Sept. 11

Nanaimo is about to receive a fragment of a day that changed the world.

Firefighters Steve Nicks

Firefighters Steve Nicks

Nanaimo has received a fragment of a day that changed the world.

Almost 3,000 people died on Sept. 11 2001 when terrorists crashed two commercial airliners into the World Trade Center towers, one into the Pentagon and a fourth into a field in Pennsylvania.

More than 400 firefighters, police officers and other emergency response personnel were killed when the Twin Towers collapsed later that morning.

Every Sept. 11 since, Nanaimo’s emergency responders take a moment to observe the tragedy. For the 10th anniversary, those observances could be made in the presence of Nanaimo’s first physical connection with the event, a section of steel structural beam from the World Trade Center.

The beam section was stored in Hangar 17 at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport with other debris collected from the disaster site and is a gift from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

The beam will be displayed at Nanaimo Fire Rescue’s museum in Station 1 at 666 Fitzwilliam St.

Nanaimo Fire Rescue applied for the artifact when they were made available several years ago.

“It’s almost like an international memorial,” said Karen Lindsay, emergency response coordinator. “Part of what they’re doing is acknowledging the assistance the world provided in one of their darkest days in New York.”

Pieces of the rubble are being shipped to cities across North America, but Nanaimo is one of only a few Canadian cities, along with Calgary, Alta., Meadford, Ont., and Gander, Nfld., to receive artifacts.

“First off, it’s intended to be a memorial for the nearly 3,000 people who lost their lives,” said Ron Lambert, Nanaimo Fire Rescue chief. “Secondly, it’s a reminder for us, in fire, not only of the potential dangers, but the need for agencies to work seamlessly at a major incident.”

Lambert said emergency response agencies, industry and the Nanaimo Port Authority have been working to implement an inter-agency unified command system since the attacks. Unified command structures are designed to better coordinate multiple emergency response agencies, make emergency response more efficient and safeguard emergency personnel while saving civilian lives.

Lambert said post-Sept. 11 analysis by the U.S. Government of the emergency response to the attacks in New York revealed many flaws in the command and control structure, which included setting up 13 separate command posts instead of a single unified command centre.

“There’s a tendency for each agency to represent only their needs and this system actually assists in breaking down some of those barriers that exist – and they certainly existed during the response to the World Trade Center,” he said.