Gerald Dickens is one of a small group of Palm Coast Elks who secured and built a monument to remember the events of Sept. 11, 2001. The monument was unveiled on the 10th anniversary of the attacks.
It was fitting that Dickens, a retired New York firefighter, was involved in the event. He watched TV as the second plane barreled into the South Tower of the World Trade Center Sept. 11, 2011, knowing his ex-wife was working on the 72nd floor. He didn’t know she already had made her way to safety.
For a brief second, Dickens forgot that he was on the phone with his daughter and let out a yelp.
Dickens was one of the many who volunteered their time after the tragedy.
“The only way that I can try to describe it to someone that wasn’t there is it was like standing on a movie set,” Dickens said.
Fellow Elk and retired New York police officer Vincent Gough obtained two steel pieces from the World Trade Center to serve as the main element of the monument — a steel floor joist from 2 WTC and a support column from 1 WTC.
“What we feel is in this steel is dust of some of the people we lost — uniformed personnel and civilians,” Dickens said. “And that’s why we take such pride in this.”
The twisted floor joist is welded on top of the support column in a V and placed atop a pentagon base. Each side of the base is adorned with an engraved stone tablet dedicated to the events of that day: a timeline of the events of 9/11, the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, the United Flight 93 crash and the emergency responders.
“If you realize the way this steel was shaped, as a floor joist, and you look at it now — this is the way it came out of the debris pile, at the World Trade Center,” Dickens said, fighting back tears. “And with these pins … stuck out into concrete,” he added, peering at the top of the steel beam. “They just sheered right off, twisted, ripped.”
Although the original vision was that the V shape could stand for victory, Dickens said he views the beams as arms reaching up to all the emergency workers and civilians lost.
For Gough, it is a reminder of the sacrifice that firefighters and police officers made that day.
“The memorial is meaningful to me because I think it’s something all Americans should remember,” Gough said. “They have a short memory of what happened, and I think if you look back to 10 years ago, America is a different place now.”
Dickens said the hardest part about going back to New York now, is seeing that hole in the skyline.
“You see them, but they’re not there,” he said.