It’s been 18 years since the tragedy on Sept. 11, 2001, killed 2,977 people.
For Kensington Volunteer Fire Department (KVFD), the tragedy is especially personal because it was one of the fire departments to respond to the terrorist attacks on the Pentagon.
In 2009, Steven Semler—KVFD’s past president and now life member—was instrumental in beginning a memorial to remember the victims and heroes who died in the September 11 attacks.
The memorial, which can be seen off of Connecticut Avenue, includes elements from the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. For the 18th anniversary, the department is getting a plaque to honor victims who died in Shanksville, Pa. Town of Kensington Mayor Tracey Furman will dedicate the plaque to those who perished in the tragedy.
“Our memorial will have artifact or dedication to all three points of impact—New York, Pentagon and the Shanksville tragedy,” Semler said.
Coming Up @MontgomeryCoMD Kensington, MD @mcvfra @KensingtonVFD volunteer firefighters & community members will host annual 9/11 Remembrance Ceremony w/ color Guard, special speeches, reflection, September 11th Memorial IFO @MCFRS FS705. https://t.co/Nfv8kzX24v 7p Wednesday 9/11 pic.twitter.com/PRJc2Tk0nw
— Pete Piringer (@mcfrsPIO) September 9, 2019
Kevin Tighe, a master firefighter at KVFD, said each time he walks by the memorial, he thinks about the tragedy that happened on that fateful day.
“We don’t want to forget what happened on September 11, 2001,” Tighe said.
History Behind Kensington Volunteer Fire Department’s 9/11 Artifact from the World Trade Center
In 2009, the 9/11 Families Association awarded the KVFD an artifact from the World Trade Center. Semler said departments around the country were receiving artifacts once the federal government finished testing the metal at the World Trade Center, but it was difficult to get chosen.
After earning the award, Semler and the department selected a large structural beam located between the 91st and 93rd floor in the first tower struck.
“We wanted a piece that would reflect the horror of the twisting, burning metal, fully reflecting the tragedy of 9/11,” Semler said.
DYK – IFO Kensington (MCFRS FS705) located @ Connecticut Ave & Plyers Mill Rd there are several 9/11 memorials pic.twitter.com/YSqaRXILg9
— Pete Piringer (@mcfrsPIO) June 15, 2016
Semler said Keith Golden and Ernesto Moretti, lifetime members of KVFD, drove in a truck to John F. Kennedy Airport to pick up the piece of metal and received a police escort on the way. Upon returning to Kensington, the artifact received another police and motorcycle escort to Station 5 of KVSD.
KVFD’s Chaplain F. Tom Claxton secured commitments from companies and individuals to donate engineering designs and landscaping services to create the monument for the artifact. But KVFD still needed a construction service, so Semler did an interview with the Montgomery County Gazette explaining his predicament.
Steve Heidenberger, who lost his sister-in-law in the 9/11 attacks, read the interview and offered the use of his company Heidenberger Construction Inc., located in Kensington. Heidenberger also donated concrete, bricks, landscaping, electrical work, the mounting of the poles, and the pedestals in honor of all those lost in the attacks.
9/11 Memorial Helps Kensington Volunteer Fire Department and Community ‘Never Forget’
The U.S. Department of Defense awarded KVFD a piece of limestone façade from the Pentagon, which was damaged from the point of impact on 9/11.
“This was also particularly important to us because KVFD responded to 9/11 and the day after 9/11,” Semler said.
Semler said for firefighters, the memorial on Connecticut Avenue serves as a reminder that they never know what each day will bring.
“The hope is that everybody goes home at least as safely as they when they arrived, knowing that when they are here, they are sharing the heroism of all that have perished in New York, Pentagon, and Shanksville.”