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WTC girder will anchor memorial

Nick Reno shows his 19 month-old daughter Avsteel girder thonce was part World Trade Center. Schererville will display girder as

Nick Reno shows his 19 month-old daughter, Ava, a steel girder that once was part of the World Trade Center. Schererville will display the girder as part of a memorial dedicated to 9/11 emergency responders. | Michelle Quinn~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: November 9, 2011 3:15PM

SCHERERVILLE — Emergency workers in town never enjoy marking the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil each year, but on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, they had more reason than ever to be proud.

After several years of research, the Schererville Fire Department obtained a steel girder from the World Trade Center for a memorial it plans to erect honoring fallen emergency responders. Fire engine No. 2 carried the girder amid the roar of those attending the service Sunday at the Town Hall.

Fire Department officials had tossed around ideas for a memorial for years, mentioning the idea of getting a piece of steel from the wreckage, Fire Chief Joe Kruzan said. But the idea didn’t really gain steam until about 18 months ago.

Kruzan and others charged with trying to get it quickly found out that securing such a vital piece of history would take far more than just a phone call. Hours on the Internet and multiple letters often led to dead ends, he said.Then, one day about a month ago, Bob Patterson, deputy fire chief, received the email for which they’d been waiting.

“I’d been doing some research when I discovered another fire department had gotten a piece of it,” Patterson said. “I contacted a person at that department, who gave me he contact they used.

“When they emailed back about a month ago that we’d been accepted, it was just spine-tingling.”

The town plans to make the girder a memorial centerpiece, along the portion of the bike trail near the police station, Kruzan said. Though it will be in a recreational setting, those who stop should treat it as hallowed ground.

“It will not be a place to play Frisbee ... (or) walk your dog,” Kruzan said. “It will be a place to reflect.”

Nick Reno of Schererville stepped up on Engine No. 2 with his 19 month-old daughter, Ava, and let her touch the girder. An ironworker, Reno had just returned from vacation when the attacks happened, thus, he could not join those ironworkers who headed to New York City  to help.

What Ava will learn about 9/11 will come from a textbook, Reno said, so he plans to make sure she never forgets its true meaning.

“I want her to know how fast life as you know it can change, and that you have to appreciate the good times,” Reno said.

WTC survivor Don Bacso provided the keynote speech for the event.

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