Conover gets piece of 9/11 history

Nearly 10 years ago, Catawba County residents were glued to their TVs. From office buildings, schools and homes, they watched terrorists fly planes into the sides of two of the nation’s most iconic buildings – the twin World Trade Center towers – on Sept. 11, 2001.

For many area residents, that was the extent of their connection with the 9/11 attacks, but a piece of steel that will arrive in Conover this week will help citizens better remember the historic day.

Conover officials will travel to New York City this week to pick up a piece of the World Trade Center that will serve as a memorial in the city.

The 5,000-pound artifact is part of a shear stud, which is used to keep steel floor beams and girders in place. It is 60 inches long, 45 inches wide and 45 inches tall, said Conover City Manager Donald Duncan.  

“They saw so much on TV that day, but so many people have not been able to travel,” Duncan said. “They haven’t seen it before, and this is a way you can have an artifact you can touch, remember and honor those who lost their lives. It’s not looking at it behind a piece of glass or velvet ropes.”

Conover officials will pick up the artifact Thursday and transport it back to Catawba County internally, said Conover Mayor Lee Moritz. It will be dedicated on Sunday during a remembrance ceremony in the park across from Conover City Hall.

“(9/11) was really the start of our war on terror and this will be a piece we will proudly display for anyone in the area – especially our young folks,” Moritz said. “We can never forget what happened that day.”

Conover made its request for the piece of steel after city officials read an article in USA Today, Duncan said. At the time of its request, the city was one of 1,200 applicants for 12 remaining pieces of steel from the towers.

“(The artifact) is to honor our fallen heroes and also honor our heroes of today,” Duncan said. “If you look at a timeline of history, (9/11) is not just one of those bullet points. The world was never the same from that morning; everything changed.”

After the ceremony on Sunday, the artifact will be placed permanently at the Conover Fire Station, where citizens can see it during regular business hours.

Conover Mayor Pro-tem Kyle Hayman agrees that the artifact makes it easier for citizens to remember and pay homage to the lives that were lost 10 years ago. He said that, in the future, the artifact can be used as an educational tool for children, too.

“It’s very important that we have this piece of American history that we can display so folks can remember the sacrifices that people in the World Trade Center, as well as those who sacrificed their lives to get people out of the World Trade Center,” Hayman said. “Hopefully we will have this for many years, and we can use it as an educational component to teach children the sacrifices of freedom.”

Conover city councilman Don Beal said he has not been able to travel to ground zero in New York. But he said he is proud that Conover will host a piece of the buildings.

“We certainly will always remember it, and this helps us be part of it,” Beal said. “I think it will also benefit the entire area and not just Conover.”  

Conover officials are scheduled to pick up the artifact Thursday at 7:30 a.m., Duncan said. On Sunday, the city will hold the remembrance ceremony in its downtown park starting at 8:45 a.m.

In addition to honoring local first responders and those lost during 9/11, Moritz said the ceremony will include a “ringing of the bell,” an inspirational message from Pastor Brian Correll, and a special dedication of the World Trade Center piece.

“We will pick the piece up and bring it home and dedicate that piece on exactly ten years to the moment that the event happened,” Moritz said. “We felt like if we were going to have a service that would be the best time to have it.”