Overlooking the New York City skyline, a 7,400-pound piece of steel from the World Trade Center perfectly frames the space where the Twin Towers once stood.
The artifact, perched atop the Sept. 11 Memorial at Essex County's Eagle Rock Reservation in West Orange, was unveiled Tuesday morning, days before the 10th anniversary of 9/11.
"This piece of steel is very significant, this totally completes this project," said Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo Jr., who led the effort to build the memorial a year after the attacks and personally chose the steel piece that would complete the memorial.
"As soon as I saw it, I knew that was it," DiVincenzo said. He said the 75-inch long by 57-inch tall piece was once a part of the foundation of the towers and survived the building's 1993 bombing. "It's not overpowering," he said. "To me that says it all."
Gov. Chris Christie, whose birthday was Tuesday, also attended the ceremony to unveil the sculpture. "Places like this are important for families to come and to contemplate and to celebrate the lives of folks they've lost. It's also important reminders for us, not just what happened that day, but what's happened every day since."
Two large, rusted steel beams form the V-shaped piece that angles right toward where the two towers once loomed, Mike Piga, landscape architect at French & Parrello Associates told Patch. "The two sides represent the towers themselves," he said.
The memorial opened a year after Sept. 11 and this is its latest addition, Piga said. He said the area for the artifact is near the center of the memorial. The piece sits on a slab of concrete and is surrounded by brick paved in a circular pattern to represent unity, Piga explained. He said the grass around the structure is meant to make the steel feel like it's floating and "heavenly."
The governor was flanked by officials including Sen. Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex) and Bill Baroni, Deputy Executive Director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
"Essex County has always been a partner (of Port Authority)," Baroni told Patch. He said the piece of steel and concrete was part of the Port Authority's Steel Distribution program and came from a hangar at John F. Kennedy International Airport. So far, 1,200 pieces have been doled out — 140 in New Jersey and eight to other countries.
Invited dignitaries and guests huddled beneath a tent as the rain pounded down Tuesday morning, the soggy scene a contrast to the clear sunny sky on that fateful morning 10 years ago.
"You kind of forget what happened that day, not in a concrete way but when you see ambulances that were crushed that look like accordions, when you see pieces of steel, you remember what happened on that Tuesday morning and then the great opportunity that we have here to have a formal presentation of a piece that was part of the structure that was first bombed in 1993," Ruiz said.
A piece of engraved granite stands next to the piece of steel and reads, "September 11, 2001: A Day We Will Always Remember. This piece of steel and concrete is from the foundation of the Twin Towers, first bombed in 1993 and destroyed in 2001. It rests here as a reminder that America, full of freedom and possibilities, will survive and flourish, and that the people who were directly impacted by this heart-breaking tragedy will forever remain in our hearts and minds."
The Sept. 11 memorial opened a year after the 9/11 attacks and was the first site to include not only the 57 Essex County residents who perished on 9/11, but all 3,000 victims. DiVincenzo said the county's memorial was built through in-kind and monetary donations and not tax payer dollars.
Recounting the day of the attacks, DiVincenzo said he came to the Eagle Rock reservation and saw thousands of residents watching the smoking towers from the ledge that overlooked the city. "I knew that this was the site and I knew that we had to get (the memorial) done in a year," he said.