Units from all four Kensington Stations (5, 18, 21, 25) responded to a 2-Alarm working house fire on Berry Street in Wheaton on Wednesday, April 20th, 2016. Read more here!
Section 1: Artifact Metal From the Remains of the World Trade Center is Awarded to KVFD
In late 2009, almost a decade after the tragedy of September 11, 2001, the 9/11 Families Association announced it would donate to selected fire departments and municipalities nationally, structural metal remains from the horrific 9/11 destruction of the World Trade Center in New York City, for creation of public memorials nationally to commemorate forever those 2977 firefighters, police and other citizens lost in that tragedy.
KVFD’s Board voted to apply for a major piece of this artifact metal for creation of a National memorial of remembrance to be built at KVFD. A KVF D 9/11 Memorial Committee was formed by the KVFD Board. This committee was chaired by KVFD’s then~President, Steven R. Semler. Semler applied to the 9/11 Families Association for a major piece of this artifact metal. The application initially received no response, but when Semler was able to speak directly to the President of the 9/11 Families Association located in New York City (Lee Ielpi -- a retired FDNY firefighter who lost his FDNY firefighter-son in the incineration of the WTC), he explained that KVFD 1) responded to the Pentagon disaster of 9/11, and that 2) KVFD also proposed to build a 9/11 Monument right on the thoroughfare of Connecticut Avenue on a direct commuter route ten miles straight to the White House, Ielpi promised favorable action on KVFD’s application.
Thereafter, Semler and then-KVF D Lieutenant Ron Dowdy, Jr. travelled to JFK airport in New York, where these hallowed metal remains were stored in two airplane hangars, to choose three pieces of metal - one of which would be selected by the 9/11 Families Association for donation to KVFD. KVFD was awarded its first choice - a sixteen foot long, one ton piece of twisted and burned structural metal box beam from the point of airplane impact into the WTC, the distortion of which fully reflected the horrific nature of the events of 9/11. There then ensued a New York federal court order transferring title of the artifact metal to KVFD, clearing the way for transfer of the metal to KVFD.
Pickup of the metal from JFK was then arranged with the Port Authority of NY/NJ, which was the owner of the WTC, and hence, the owner of the metal remains of the WTC. KVFD Life Members Keith Golden and Ernesto Moretti then drove to New York’s JFK airport, using Keith’s truck and a borrowed flatbed trailer, to bring the historic metal back to KVF D Station 21 where it would be stored pending design of the Monument for Station 5. They did the round trip in one very long day. During the trip to JFK, they asked a NYC policeman for directions, and the policeman, learning their mission, then escorted them to the storage hangar at the airport.
Section 2: KVFD is Awarded a Piece of the Facade of the Pentagon Remains, Damaged on 9/11
Steve Semler then contacted the Pentagon and, with the assistance of then-KVFD Member Chris Thorgenson, obtained donation to KVFD of a piece of the limestone façade of the Pentagon which also was damaged on 9/11 -this also to be incorporated into the Memorial (joining the existing KVFD 9/11 Rose Garden in remembrance of the victims of the downed Shanksvilie PA flight of 9/11).
Section 3: Donation of Memorial Design, Structural Engineering & Landscaping Design
Having had the WTC metal and the Pentagon stone, however, was only the beginning of the journey to creation of the Monument. There still remained two huge hurdles, getting Town approval for the removal of the tree at the proposed Memorial site (the Town having previously blocked removal of the tree for a proposed expansion of the firehouse); and second, somehow finding funding or donation for design and construction of the Memorial.
As to the hurdle of removal of the “tree”, Semler proposed to the Town Mayor that the Town could “keep the tree, or have a monument of national importance built in its place that would draw people to Kensington.” The Mayor, quickly grasping the importance to the Town of the creation of such a Monument of national import, promptly offered support including allowing removal of the tree. That left the not insignificant issue of funding or donations to obtain professional engineering design and construction of the Memorial.
The first big break, both financial and to assure creation of a world-class Memorial - was achieved by Committee member/ KVFD Chaplain (and former KVFD Deputy Fire Chief) F.Tom Claxton, who secured commitments from a national engineering design firm (Greenhorne & O'Mara and a noted landscape designer (Ralph D’Amato), which agreed to donate engineering design and landscaping services for the creation of the Monument. Their joint design concept is framed in the KVFD Sta. 5 day room. However, KVFD still needed construction service and expensive materials (lighting, concrete, stonework, etc.). The big break for that quickly came after Semler gave an interview about the desired project to the local Gazette newspaper, noting that KVFD was looking for donation of the materials and labor from the construction community to “make it all come together”.
Our prayers were answered the next day, when a public-spirited citizen - local commercial construction general contractor Steve Heidenberger, of Kensington’s Heidenberger Construction Inc. -- having been moved by reading this newspaper story of this desired project, offered his Company's services - on a donated basis -- as general contractor for the project, further offering to tap into his years of good will in the industry, for donation of expensive ground preparation, electrical, concrete, bricks, stone, granite, lettering, fencing, pedestals, materials and labor. Heidenberger relentlessly pursued his contacts to get this material and labor donated and installed, and placed a job superintendent of his on the job site for months to coordinate the multi-faceted construction job. Piece by piece, Steve Heidenberger made it ail happen. Not well known was the fact that Steve Heidenberger lost a beloved sister-in-law in the Pentagon crash of 9/11, and supported creation of the Monument to commemorate the loss of all persons lost in the WTC, Pentagon, and Shanksville, PA tragedies of 9/11.
Section 4: Local Builder Donates General Contracting Services; Groundbreaking Ceremony
Construction commenced in 2010, with Keith Golden (a professional arborist), taking down the tree at the Memorial site. Heidenberger and his donor-contractors then commenced ground preparation and leveling, leading to creation of a concrete floor and concrete pedestals for the WTC metal and Pentagon stone, followed by electrical lighting, brick installation, stone wall finished by then-Board Member Ernesto Moretti, landscaping arranged by D’Amato, and so on. Meanwhile, when the metal was ready for delivery to Station 5 for mounting, Golden and Moretti brought the metal, by flatbed truck from KVFD Station 21 to Station 5, escorted “lights and sirens” by approximately two dozen MCPD motorcycle police and police cars, joined by the old KVFD antique Model L engine and brand new (not yet in service) KVFD Ambulance 705B, while uniformed members of KVFD solemnly saluted. With police having blocked all traffic, the solemn procession ended with a waiting massive crane lifting the steel into mounting position while Moretti hand-applied the four mounting screws which then were respectively tightened by Semler, then-KVFD Chief James Stanton, Steve Heidenberger, and Mayor Fosselman. The ground of the Memorial is lined with engraved bricks bought by the community (along with bricks honoring donor contractors and suppliers) which, in turn, supported a significant contribution by KVFD to the 9/11 Families Association.
Section 5: Dedication Ceremony, June 25, 2011
Construction and landscaping work continued, proceeding to dedication ceremonies held at Station 5 on June 25, 2011, with speakers including the Town Mayor, a local priest Rev. Andrew Morkunas, the FBI agent responsible for Washington area investigation of 9/11, Semler, Stanton, Heidenberger, Heidenberger’s brother (Tom) who spoke for all the victims and their families left by the horror of 9/11, and a representative of U.S. Congressman Chris Van Hollen. The press and townspeople also attended, to the somber refrain of live bagpipe music provided by Rockville HS Pipe & Drum Corps. At the dedication, the massive “Bell of Remembrance,” which was mounted on a trailer inscribed with the names of all 343 firefighters lost on 9/11, was rung in the traditional manner signifying mourning over lost firefighters.
Section 6: The American Spirit
The Monument serves, as it is inscribed, as a testament “to the American spirit" and to assure that ‘We Shall Never Forget.” The KVFD Monument is included in a book of National 9/11 Monuments being published by the Port Authority of NY/NJ. Citizens gather to reflect and leave flowers and remembrances at the KVFD 9/11 Memorial each 9/11 anniversary.
A pictorial history showing the development of the Memorial is proudly displayed in our Image Gallery in this website at http://goo.gl//hfz9y