With an escort of thundering motorcycles, chirping sirens, a clanging bell and the applause of hundreds, a flatbed truck carrying a piece of steel from the World Trade Center pulled up in front of the convention center in Baltimore just before closing of the Firehouse Expo 2011.
Flanks of firefighters and police officers lined both sides of the entrance to the convention center to welcome the iconic steel from New York. It’s destined to become part of a memorial at the fire training academy in Baltimore with a receiving ceremony scheduled for Sunday.
The 10-foot long steel I-beam left a hanger at the John F. Kennedy Airport outside of New York City at 7 a.m. At the wheel of the truck was Kevin McLoughlin, a volunteer with FDNY Fire Family Transport Foundation. The organization is a not-for-profit corporation dedicated to helping the families of the firefighters in their times of greatest need by transporting firefighters, family and department personnel when needed.
McLoughlin, who is a delivery driver for the New York Post, said it was a privilege to drive the 1987 Mack tractor trailer on the 7-hour trip south.
“We had firefighters and people waving at almost every overpass, every one of them, waving flags and cheering,” said McLoughlin who was accompanied by his young son, Kyle. “He ran the horn.” The youngster beamed with pride and explained how the retired FDNY decontamination vehicle was equipped with passenger side foot control for air horn.
For McLoughlin, it was the first piece of steel he had delivered and he was humbled and honored by the event. Firefighter motorcyclists were in formation in the front and civilian cyclists in the back for the whole trip.
From the Francis Scott Key bridge, just outside Baltimore, to the convention center, the truck carrying the steel was escorted by a restored 1951 Mack fire truck driven by Frank Ancona, a retired member of FDNY Ladder 132. The antique Mack, numbered 343, is dedicated to the fallen firefighters of September 11.
Ancona, who is a member of the foundation’s advisory board, said Baltimore asked for a piece of steel and the board said it would do whatever they could to make it happen. It all came together and the steel arrived just in time for the close of the Firehouse Expo show.
Harvey Eisner, the Editor-in-Chief of Firehouse Magazine, was instrumental in making the arrangements to get the steel to the Expo and providing show floor space to the foundation, Ancona said.
“We coordinated it and made it all come together and here it is,” Ancona said.
The foundation has delivered steel to as far away as Shanksville, Pa., and Camp LeJeune, Ancona said.
“It’s an honor to be part of this,” he said, obviously welling up with pride from the event. He was retired from the department when the attacks happened, he said. “But I was down there that afternoon,” he said. “I’ve made at least two good decisions in my life, one was becoming a United States Marine, and the next was joining FDNY. I’ve got two families, brother, two families.”