9/11 memorial beam to be displayed at church after years of opposition

15 years ago the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center devastated our country. In the aftermath we saw a unity unlike anything we had ever seen. One symbol of that unity and respect came from steel workers clearing the debris.

“So the legend goes that the steel workers or the iron workers or the firefighters that were cutting the beams during 9-/11, they would cut out symbols, crosses, stars of David, circles, moon and then giving that cut out to family members as a token of their sacrifice."

The beams have been preserved in various locations across the country and Former Princeton Fire Chief Roy James wanted one of them to be prominently displayed in Princeton. He was thrilled when they were able to secure a beam but he was baffled when a national atheist group opposed it.

“The way they looked at it is that it was viewed as a religious symbol and if we were going to put it on any type of property that had anything to do with the state or the town that it would go against church and state," said Former Princeton Fire Chief Roy James. 

So the beam that they fought so hard to bring to Princeton has been in the local fire station under a flag not widely displayed because of a belief that displaying any image of a religious symbol regardless of meaning or intent violates the need for separation of church and state.

"We put our heart we put our soul. We had so many firefighters we planned this out so well and we did everything possible to make sure this got done the right way and all of the sudden its like its not gonna happen anymore because of a cut out."

And for 5 years through meetings with elected officials, discussions with residents, negotiation with the atheist group the beam remained propped off of the floor in one of the bays of Princeton Fire Station 1.  It was covered with an American flag and a light shining on it 24 hours a day.

Up until last month this would be the end of a sad story. But after sadness and concern, things took a positive turn in October.  One of the former firefighters is on the pastoral council at a local church. The church and convent right on Princeton’s Main Street are being renovated and with perfect timing will soon welcome the beam for all to see.

FOX 29's Bill Anderson met Wadsworth to see the new location and wanted to see if years of struggle to simply show support for those who made the ultimate sacrifice had dampened his spirits at all.

“You could’ve fought, you could’ve gotten angry, some say you should’ve fought and should’ve gotten angry…what for.”

Not one bit, maybe it was for his faith, maybe it was for the people they pay honor to with the beam or maybe all of them persisted and eventually won for goodness sake.

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