When Mayor John Romano wrote a letter to the Port Authority in October 2015 requesting a piece of Ground Zero, he didn’t expect the village to receive one, let alone the very last two.
His letter noted the village’s around-the-clock efforts to raise more than $11,000 for families of the more than 3,000 people killed on Sept. 11, 2001, in the week after the terrorist attacks.
“Those two rails are the last two pieces,” Romano said of two transit rails that once lay below the World Trade Center, carrying subway passengers to and from the twin towers.
In May 2016, he joined the Ballston Spa-based nonprofit group MacBoston Fallen Firefighter Memorial on a trip to retrieve the two 13-foot, 650-pound pieces from a hangar on Long Island.
“It’s gone — the building is empty,” he said.
The twisted rails will become part of a village memorial to the victims of 9/11. Work on the monument will begin Aug. 19, with the project expected to be done in time for a dedication ceremony and community observance on Sept. 11.
“When you think of how far those were located from where the damage occurred, and they still incurred that much damage,” said Bill Strong, trailing off.
For the memorial, he is welding pedestals to the rails which will lie flat. A rendering of the memorial shows the rails elevated slightly above a pentagon-shaped stone border, with the pentagon pointing to an American flag.
On each side of the entrance will be two granite monuments, donated by Lance Evans Memorials, to symbolize the twin towers. One stone will pay tribute to those who lost their lives in the attacks, while the other will list the names of donors who made the memorial possible.
Village residents and businesses raised more than $7,000 to fund the memorial, Romano said. The stone was donated by D’Agostino Building Block and Nicolock Paving Stones and Retaining Walls. Ross Blacktop and Brick Paving is donating the labor.
“Not one municipal cent has been spent to put this together,” the mayor said.
Romano said he wrote to the Port Authority after Pete Champagne came to him with the idea.
Champagne in turn credited Halie Northrop, a staffer in U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik’s office, for researching how to request the 9/11 artifacts.
“I got it going, but I didn’t know what I was doing,” he said modestly.
Champagne, a lifelong village resident and past Ballston Spa Rotary Club president, said he had been looking for a way for the organization to give back to the community. After reading an article about there being few artifacts from 9/11 left, he contacted the mayor and got to work.
The club formed a non-profit group in order to raise funds for the memorial.
“I thought it would be a great thing for the village to leave behind for our grandchildren,” said Champagne, 65. “We know what happened, but our grandchildren have no idea. So as they grow up and see these memorials all over New York state — all over the country — now they’ll know.”
A former Ballston Spa resident lost a brother in the terrorist attacks, he said.
Gina Marozzi, a Milton resident who had done scene photography for the New York City Fire Department, said she lost 23 friends that day.
Marozzi connected project volunteers with the non-profit group. Her brother, Antonio Rossi, owns Ross Paving.
“I think it’s wonderful,” she said of the memorial. “I want my friends remembered.”
The dedication ceremony is set for 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 11.
“The village has not done anything officially on 9/11,” Romano said. “We will from this year forward.”