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Just in time, York County 9/11 monument installed

What began as a dream hashed out by volunteers at Bethesda Volunteer Fire Department came true more than a year later on Thursday, when York County's monument to almost 3,000 people who died in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks was finished.

And just in time, too: A public dedication of the monument - three black granite markers holding up a 14-foot steel beam retrieved from the wreckage of the World Trade Center itself - is scheduled for Sunday morning, marking the 10th anniversary of the attacks.

Some of those volunteers who worked so hard to make the monument a reality stood by at the York County Fire Training Grounds on Ogden Road, as workers from Gaulden Monuments first put the granite stones in place, then maneuvered the almost two-ton beam on top.

"Beautiful," said Bob Davenport, a Bethesda volunteer and magistrate judge, who said with one word the absolute truth.

The first stone has the World Trade Center towers drawn on it.

The middle stone has the number "343" - the number of New York firefighters who died in the 9/11 attacks. On the back, the fireman's prayer is inscribed.

The third stone memorializes the people who died, by the numbers - 343 firefighters, 23 New York police officers, 37 New Jersey police officers, and 2,346 civilians, including emergency medical personnel.

The bottom says, "Thank you for the lives you saved."

It all sits atop a concrete, five-sided apron, which honors those killed at the Pentagon building in Washington, D.C. Flagpoles and two spotlights shining straight up - like the Twin Towers - surround the monument.

"Makes you think about what they all gave, all those people who died saving others," said Gary Starnes of the York County Fire Marshal's Office, a longtime Lesslie volunteer firefighter who helped with the monument.

The steel beam is one of thousands of pieces of the World Trade Center given to fire departments, civic organizations, municipalities, even foreign countries.

Dave Pennell of the Bethesda volunteers requested the beam, and he, Davenport, and Oakdale volunteer Leon Yard organized getting the beam and raising the money to have a monument built.

Davenport drove to New York to pick the beam up in February, and was greeted by thousands of people who lined the streets as the beam was escorted across York County to Ogden Road by more than 40 emergency vehicles.

Donations came in from firefighters, fire departments and the public. In-kind donations such as the truck used to pick up the beam, some of the labor and materials for the monument pad, landscaping and more, were donated or given at cost.

Gaulden Monuments, a Rock Hill company that has served the community for 50 years, agreed to find the perfect stones, cut them, and handle the engraving and installation.

"This is for the community, and we are proud to have a part in it," said Daniel Gaulden, third generation monument maker.

The stones weigh a combined 3,000 pounds, and the beam itself weighs 4,100 pounds.

"Permanent and forever," said Davenport. "Where everyone can look at it."

As the monument was being installed, Dennis and Carol Kirby showed up to watch. Then, the couple presented Davenport with New York City's official flag.

That flag, and the monument in his adopted hometown of Rock Hill, means a lot to Dennis Kirby, a retired FDNY firefighter who knew firefighters who died in the 9/11 attacks. He worked with them saving people before retiring in 1993.

This monument is not just stone and steel for him.

"York County is a great place to do this," Kirby said. "I am proud."

All that is left now is for the public to come Sunday for the unveiling.

"We did this for the people of York County," Davenport said. "We are all firefighters like the heroes who died. The public, the people, is why we do what we do.

"It is an honor to do this."

See video of the installation below.

Want to go?

What: Dedication and ceremony unveiling the York County 9/11 Monument. Free and open to the public.

When: 8:15 a.m. Sunday; reading of the names of all firefighters killed that day begins at 8:46 a.m. to coincide with the time the first plane hit the World Trade Center in 2001. The event is expected to last up to two hours. Bring your own chair.

Where: York County Fire Training Grounds, 2151 Ogden Road, Rock Hill

Information: Leon Yard, 803-448-8116, leon.yard@comporium.com.

Donations: Send to WTC Memorial Fund, c/o Amy Jones, Arthur State Bank, 201 S. Herlong Ave., Rock Hill, SC, 29732.

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