Ground Zero Artifact Installed At Portsmouth's Future Memorial Site

Sep 11, 2015

The 14th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center will be particularly momentous in Portsmouth. Last month, that city received an artifact from the wreckage which they will use to memorialize the tragedy.

"I just thought yeah, go for it let's see what happens."

Kathe Levesque is the Executive Assistant to the city’s Chief of Police.  She’s spent the last five years figuring out how to get on the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s list. She wanted to get Portsmouth a piece of the 911 wreckage. 

"You know, you’re passing that oral history down to the next generation. Because patriots are made, they aren’t born."

On Thursday afternoon, Levesque wiped a tear away as she watched workers lift the 8 foot, 1100 pound object off of a truck bed and place it onto a display outside the Portsmouth Police station.

The top edge of the rusty steel I-beam is studded with a couple dozen two-inch-thick nails, bent every which way.

Chief of Police, Stephen DuBois says nobody knows what it was used for.

"It’s just a relic from Ground Zero that they were able to collect during the recovery and they’ve kept all these years."

Kathe Levesque spent five years securing the artifact for Portsmouth.
Credit Emily Corwin / NHPR

  In fact, according to data from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, more than 1400 artifacts from Ground Zero have been distributed to all 50 states and nine countries including China, Afghanistan, and Ireland.

Portsmouth is the seventh place in New Hampshire to receive an artifact.

And on the morning of 9-11 at the time when the first plane struck the World Trade Center, the city will officially unveil the beam at the Portsmouth Municipal Complex with Senators Ayotte and Shaheen set to attend.

A permanent memorial built around the beam is also in the works, in collaboration with the city Manager, John Bohenko.

Kathe Levesque says the Portsmouth has a special connection to the events of 911.

American Airlines pilot Tom McGuinness was a Portsmouth resident.  And he was a copilot of the first plane that crashed into the first tower, the North tower.

And, there was what she calls the “tsunami” of help from agencies in New Hampshire after the attacks.

"Our chief at the time, Chief Magnant, shifted coverage so that officers could go down in pairs of two over the period of maybe four to six weeks, they went down and were used for all sorts of things."

For now, the artifact sits on its own, supported by two supports for the public to view.  But, Levesque says, over the next few years, the city will contract a firm to design and build the permanent memorial with funding from a private Portsmouth donor. 

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