As the nation prepares to mark the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Brandon area residents will be able to get up close and touch a piece of history from that dark day when beams from the World Trade Center are put on display here.
The Westside Chapter of the Nam Knights picked up the beams earlier this week in New York.
The World Trade Center Steel Viewing is set for 2-7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 25, and 2-7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 27, at , 701 West Lumsden Rd., in Brandon.
Andy Huber, a Nam Knight and former New York City detective, was instrumental in obtaining the beams and bringing them to Brandon.
The viewing “is not a party, I’m calling it an ‘Irish wake,’ ” said Huber, a Valrico resident. “At an Irish wake, you celebrate and laugh and remember the good times, but you also might cry when you recall what happened. Sean (Rice, co-owner of O’Brien’s) does so much for the community, I couldn’t think of a better place to have it.”
Huber felt the impact of 9/11 more than most. A former New York City detective, he was on the scene in lower Manhattan when the second tower fell.
“I had to run for my life when the second tower came down,” he recalled. There to help, first responders like Huber were powerless in the initial stages of the attack as buildings collapsed around the towers and fires raged out of control.
“We couldn’t begin the search for bodies until the next day at 4 a.m.,” said Huber, who looked in vain with firefighters for survivors.
“It was a surreal time. Like any kid who grew up in New York, I thought the towers would be there forever. They were like the pyramids to us. But we were left with 16 acres of utter devastation. It took a lot of evil to create that and that’s what stuck with me most that day, just how evil people can be.”
Friendships forged on 9/11 and over a lifetime of work in New York City helped Huber when the Nam Knights inquired about obtaining a beam from the Twin Towers.
“My best friend is a battalion chief in New York, and when we asked about finding a beam coming up to the 10th anniversary, he told me to come over to the fire training center on Randall’s Island where we picked up the beams Tuesday (Aug. 23).”
Beams in tow, Knights members were escorted across bridges and roads in New York City by local law enforcement. State troopers and local Nam Knights chapters along the East Coast also joined in, escorting the motorcade for sections of the ride to Brandon.
“Being joined by other Nam Knights and law enforcement along the route was awesome,” Huber said.
The public will be allowed to touch and take pictures at the memorial, but the Knights are hoping the viewing touches them on a deeper level.
“I hope it becomes more real for people when they can see and touch the beams,” Huber said. “I hope 9/11 becomes more than something they have just seen on TV.”
The beams are already much more than twisted pieces of metal to the Knights, a group of former and active military and law enforcement personnel.
“The two pieces of steel are twisted, but they never broke," Huber said. "For me that represents the bond we share with our brothers in this group some of whom have served in Afghanistan; they wouldn’t be there if it wasn’t for 9/11. It’s a chance to honor their sacrifice.”
This is the second time this year beams from the World Trade Center have been on . The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office organized a viewing of beams at