Bridging The Memories of 9-11: One Man’s Mission to Never Forget

10 Sep

            It began with a single American flag. 

            The stars and stripes on this day stood not just for freedom, but for defiance, resolve, and honor.  The man holding and waving the flag pole high above the Main Street Bridge in Coon Rapids, Minnesota was Daniel Hanson.  With a long white beard and wavy grey hair, he looked like Santa in search of a sleigh.  In reality, he was a statement in search of a cause.

            The cause found him.  It was 9-11.

            Every September 11th for the past five years, Hanson has been waving his flag on the bridge and every year he is joined by a growing crowd of firefighters, police officers, soldiers, families and children. 

            “We want to remember what happened to our country on that day, we don’t want anyone to ever forget,” said Hanson.

            “But we want to be able to honor those men and women that have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.”

            That’s why this year, on the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks, Hanson and Coon Rapids firefighters are turning their simple bridge display into a grand community commemoration.

Daniel Hanson and Coon Rapids Fire Captain Ken Boelter standing next to a section of I-beam from the World Trade Center

           Starting at 1 p.m. on Sunday, September 11th at Coon Rapids High School the city is holding a special ceremony to honor the 9-11 anniversary with a piece of the Twin Towers as a center piece.  The Coon Rapids Fire Department has acquired a section of I-beam from the ruins of the former World Trade Center that they’ll dedicate on Sunday at the high school and then lead it on a procession to Fire Station 1 where they’ll mount it in a permanent memorial to the victims of 9-11.

            Firefighters will also have a Halligan tool belonging to FDNY unit Rescue 5.  The men of Rescue 5 stormed into the Twin Towers on the morning of September 11th, only one of them ever survived.  Their Halligan tool, a piece of equipment as ubiquitous as an axe, was among the only items ever recovered from the rescue team.  Their bodies were never found.

            For Coon Rapids Fire Captain Ken Boelter, the bent and weathered Halligan is a portal-like object.  Touch it, and it transports one into souls of the men who once carried it.

            “They would have carried this in that day,” said Boelter.

            The ceremonies at Coon Rapids High School will allow citizens to see and touch the Halligan tool and the World Trade Center’s I-beam. Boelter hopes they link people to the past in ways that forever shape the future. 

            “This is just a way to remember and a way to remember particularly the 343 New York City firefighters that died that day.” 

 Here is the schedule of events:

 1 p.m.             Event starts, public viewing of I-beam and Halligan tool at Coon Rapids High School.

 2:00                Posting of color by honor guard

2:07                Flyover by 934th Air Wing

2:08                Speakers including: Anoka Co. Sheriff James Stuart, Sec. of State Mark Ritchie, Oklahoma City bombing survivor Clark Peterson, World Trade Center  family survivor Eric Aamoth, Fire Chief John Piper.

2:48                Dedication of I-beam

2:55                Bagpipes, CRHS Band & Choir

3:45                I-beam procession to Fire Station #1

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