Firefighter Greg Reimann planned to travel to New York City last year for the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, but the trip took on a new meaning when West Pierce Fire & Rescue asked him to bring back a piece of steel from the World Trade Center.
A year later, Reimann helped dedicate a 9/11 Reflection Park on Tuesday evening to honor the relic outside West Pierces University Place headquarters.
The park cost more than $250,000, all of which was raised by residents, businesses, artisans and West Pierce employees who donated their time and money.
Once they heard what the project was, they said, Yep, what do you need? Reimann said.
He said one donation to the park left him speechless: The widow of a Vietnam War veteran donated the flag from her husbands casket. Another service member donated a flag from his deployment to Iraq.
Volunteers put in some 15-hour days to complete the park, which has been in the works for seven months, West Pierce Chief Ken Sharp said.
That extra-mile attitude is part of the fire service brotherhood Sharp spoke of at the ceremony.
Some West Pierce members flew to New York on their own dime for as many as nine funerals of firefighters after 9/11 to support the fire service and families, he said.
Its hard to explain the brotherhood that firefighters have, but its very genuine, and it crosses all boundaries, Sharp said after the ceremony.
Reimann was one of five members of West Pierce to drive the steel across the country last year using a 15-passenger van and a flat-bed trailer. It was requested through the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey as part of an ongoing effort to establish 9/11 memorials nationwide.
The group visited several New York City Fire Department firehouses, and two members of one of those units, FDNY Engine 42, attended the dedication.
It just reminds us that it didnt just happen to us, paramedic Matthew Edlund said of memorials such as West Pierces. It happened to everyone.
All it took was a phone call for the New York firefighters to reciprocate the cross-country visit.
Thats just the way it is, Reimann said of the fire service brotherhood, a topic touched on by many speakers at Tuesdays ceremony. We take care of each other.
Other local 9/11 events included a remembrance ceremony at the Firefighters Memorial on Ruston Way, held by the Tacoma Fire Department. Mayor Marilyn Strickland and Tacomas interim fire chief were to speak.
Several elementary schools classes visited the West Pierce memorial before the dedication and learned about the significance of 9/11. Reimann said West Pierce hopes to invite classes to take such field trips to the park on a regular basis.
Boy Scout Aidan Warring, 14, volunteered at the event. His troop plans to help maintain the park in the future.
No matter what age, we can always reflect on what happened, he said.
WHERE:3631 Drexler Drive West, University Place.
TO DONATE:Go to the West Pierce station in person at the address above, or visit westpierce911park.org. Organizers continue to raise funds for benches and a bronze firefighter statue, among other additions to the park.