Andrew Dys

Tiny Fort Lawn gets pieces of WTC beam for memorial in Chester County

In tiny Fort Lawn in eastern Chester County, the last census showed 806 people.

On Saturday, officially added to the population will be two pieces of World Trade Center steel beam from the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and six souls of steel perpetually headed toward heaven.

All thanks to a longtime firefighter originally from New York named Richard Hulse – who knew three people who died that horrible day – and several other volunteers from Fort Lawn and surrounding towns who decided that 9/11 was worth remembering, even in little Fort Lawn.

“When people say ‘Never forget 9/11,’ for me it is more than a slogan,” said Hulse, 69, who retired to Fort Lawn from tiny Greenport, Long Island, about 10 years ago, and has held a 9/11 memorial service each year.

“It is those 343 firefighters who died. It is the 2,976 people who died that day, and more afterward cleaning the place up after those rotten terrorists did what they did to us.”

Like so many places around the nation and world – including York County’s volunteer firefighters who put up a 14-foot monument last year – Hulse asked the Port Authority of New York/New Jersey for pieces of the World Trade Center steel beams after the decision was made to give steel away for monuments.

Initially, Hulse wanted two 15-foot pieces, but there wasn’t a budget for a monument to handle that much. So Hulse went to the Fort Lawn Community Center board of directors – he didn’t go far, as he is a member of the board – and received unanimous support to get smaller pieces.

By UPS truck a couple of months ago came a package – a pair of 27-inch, 115-pound pieces of steel I-beam.

A board member knew Bob Doster of Lancaster, a metal artist and tough guy. Doster willingly took on the task of coming up with a monument, ending up with souls blow-torched out, rough-cut style from the steel, then bent into bodies reaching toward heaven.

“The symbolization is simple, because that was a day that simply reminds us of the sacrifice of so many to be free and stay free,” Doster said. “I have a sister who was across the street from the towers that day. Two other cousins worked in the towers – they just happened to be out of the buildings on sales calls.

“By the grace of God all three did not die. But so many heroic people did die, and they did not die in vain. They died for freedom.”

Another business, Young Masonry, donated the labor to make the pedestal and install the sculptured beams.

“So many people have helped, with spirit and donations,” said Jennifer Bower, executive director of the Fort Lawn Community Center, where the monument was installed right in front of the building in the parking lot, under the American flag.

“But it was Richard Hulse who started it and worked for three years to make this come true.”

Hulse accepts no compliments. Like many York County firefighters who spent years getting the steel beam for a monument that sits on Ogden Road, he spent time and money and sought help to make it happen.

After 32 years as a volunteer firefighter in New York, and several more in Chester County, Hulse is, in his heart, always a fireman.

“This is not about money; it is about honor,” said Hulse. “Fort Lawn might be about the smallest place anywhere to have a piece of the World Trade Center. But we have it.

“9/11? It will never be lost to the people of New York or Fort Lawn or anywhere in America. Anybody can come here and see that Americans do not bend for anybody.”

The only thing that bent in this monument was the steel. Guys like Richard Hulse, he yields for no group, no man, no terrorists for sure.

At about 5 feet 3 inches tall, he stands like a giant and holds up a fist gnarled by arthritis and says: “Terrorists can’t beat the people of Fort Lawn.”

All 806 of them.