A Memorial with Many Ties
"When call came, we were ready. We didn't hesitate. It wasn't about us, it was about them, the people in New York," Said Chuck Leake, Boone County Fire Protection District Division Chief.
The Missouri Task Force One, a special team of the Boone County Fire Protection District, gathered at their warehouse and was ready to leave just hours after the first tower fell. More than 70 members from the task force spent ten days at ground zero, searching for bodies and digging through the rubble. Firefighters, paramedics, search and rescue experts and supervisors make up the force.
"I saw the blue t-shirts and the traditional fire helmets of FDNY, alongside the yellow helmets and the yellow shirts of Missouri Task Force One, those guys working side by side," Leake said.
But there was something else bringing Missourians and New Yorkers together in Manhattan. Amidst the rubble and the dust, was a symbol of home and a sign from mid-Missouri. Steve Paulsell, the Boone County Fire Protection District Chief, says he "stumbled upon" what became a make-shift memorial on a street in Manhattan. The makeshift memorial was a statue headed for Kingdom City. When the towers fell, the statue was sitting on the back of a flatbed truck by mistake. Kenneth Hoover and the Missouri Firefighters Memorial Board commissioned the statue months before the September 11th disaster to commemorate Missouri firefighters at the memorial in Kingdom City. But somehow, the statue never made it to mid-Missouri.
"Two days after 9-11, we received a phone call from the port authority of New York, for some unknown reason, our statue was sitting in the port of New York and it had arrived there by accident," ???? said.
Hoover says he doesn't believe in accidents.
"I think it happened for a reason, whether it was spiritual or not I don't know I'm not going to second guess," said Hoover.
And for that reason, the original statue still sits in New York today. Hoover and the memorial foundation ordered a second matching statue to complete the memorial in Kingdom City. Ordering the second statue delayed commemoration of the Kingdom City memorial for another year. But giving the statue to the people of New York City brought hope and faith to the Missourians working there.
"I saw it there and it became a memorial in and by itself to the firefighters there," said Paulsell.
After the second statue arrived in Kingdom City in 2002, the memorial foundation had the mold destroyed, so there are only two of the statues in the world. The statues are two of a kind tributes to tragedy, heroism and one stunning accident, tying together New York City and mid-Missouri forever.
Hoover and the memorial foundation decided not to mess with fate when their statue ended up in New York City. But he explained there was a second coincidence linking the World Trade Center and Missouri firefighters. When the foundation dedicated the statue in Kingdom City, it commemorated a wall with the names of Missouri firefighters who had died in the line of duty. At that time, in May of 2002, 353 firefighters had died in active duty in Missouri. In the World Trade Center tragedy, 343 FDNY officers died in active duty. Hoover sees it as a chilling similarity, another tie between the firefighters of New York City and the firefighters of Missouri.