MOORESVILLE — John Stanley sees the people covered in ash as they hurry along the streets. He sees the cloud like one produced by an atomic bomb. He hears the silence.
Stanley, 68, of Kannapolis was a textile industry salesman in New York City when terrorists attacked the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.
He relived “every moment of that day” as he joined 250 others in a downtown Mooresville museum and coffee shop on Wednesday morning to pray for those who lost their lives in the attacks.
The ceremony at Welcome Home Veterans Military Museum at Richard’s Coffee Shop included the dedication of a 110-pound, 1 1/2-foot section of I-beam from the World Trade Center.
The piece will have a permanent home beside the museum’s numerous donated military mementoes from wars in which U.S. veterans have served from World War II on.
Lake Norman Coast Guard Auxiliary 26-01 presented the 9/11 artifact to the museum.
Stanley also thought of the police, firefighters and other responders to the twin towers that day, hundreds of whom died. He thought of how proud he is of them – a sentiment later echoed by speakers during the ceremony.
“To me, 9/11 has come to symbolize the heroism and servitude that people have always given to America,” John Mielke, flotilla commander of Coast Guard Auxiliary 26-01, told the crowd. “And to me, Richard’s Coffee Shop more than anything else represents a place that gives comfort to those people who have given that heroism.”
Mielke worked for a financial services firm in New York City at the time and found transportation for 250 of the firm’s employees after the attacks.
At Wednesday’s ceremony, the St. Stephens High School ROTC from Catawba County also presented a collection of World Trade Center artifacts, including floor tiles, that will be transformed into a memorial/monument for Welcome Home Veterans Military Museum.
Commander Kevin Nash, senior naval science instructor at St. Stephens High School, will coordinate the design of the monument by soliciting renderings from St. Stephens Art Club students. The winning design will be selected later this year, and the piece will be completed by February.
Nash, a 1986 Mooresville High School graduate and 21-year Coast Guard veteran, spent two years corresponding with the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey to get the section of I-beam that was dedicated Wednesday. He also received a section of I-beam for St. Stephens, and pieces of tangled metal from the wreckage of the twin towers that will help form the planned Welcome Home Veterans memorial.
His dad, Frank Nash of Mooresville, drove the artifacts in his son’s pickup truck from a facility in New Jersey.
On Wednesday morning, veterans including Tom Collins, 70, of Mooresville arrived for the ceremony even before the section of I-beam was unpacked. Just looking at it sent a chill through Collins, 70, a military police sergeant who served in Saigon during the Tet offensive.
As he touched the piece, Collins closed his eyes and prayed that God will continue to take care of those who died, and their families. “God bless them,” he said.
Marusak: 704-987-3670; Twitter: @ jmarusak