A piece of history, with a full guard of honor, passed through Coweta County Tuesday, and many Cowetans got to put their mark on it.
A two-ton steel beam from the north tower of the World Trade Center was escorted into the Pilot Travel Center south of Newnan Tuesday by current and retired members of the New York Fire Department and by more than 200 motorcyclists.
The brief stop was the last on the Iron and Steel Run before it ends at Fort Benning near Columbus, Ga., where the beam will be placed outside the National Infantry Museum. A similar beam was presented to the U.S. Marine Corps at Camp Lejeune.
The beam will be next to a statue of Col. Rick Rescorla, a decorated Vietnam veteran who was the vice president of security at Morgan Stanley.
Rescorla's widow, Susan, was one of the motorcyclists escorting the beam.
The beam is being donated to the Army to "honor the veterans who have died since Sept. 11" and those still fighting, Rescorla said.
Her husband's actions on Sept. 11, 2001, saved more than 3,000 lives, Mrs. Rescorla said. Of Morgan Stanley's 2,700 employees in tower two, only six died on Sept. 11. According to an entry on Wikipedia, Rescorla ignored building officials' recommendations to stay put and began the orderly evacuation of tower two.
A statute of Rescorla was erected at Fort Benning in 2006. Rescorla was inducted into the Soldiers Hall of Fame in April 2001, Mrs. Rescorla said.
"This is such a spiritual journey," she said. When she heard about the trip, "I said, 'I can't not go with them.'"
"The spirits of those who were murdered that day are on that steel, and they are being brought to another spirit," she said.
The motorcade left Bennet Field in Brooklyn Saturday morning, said Paddy Concannon, a retired lieutenant with the Fire Department of New York who organized the event.
The motorcade stopped at several locations along the route from New York, and "just about every overpass, from New York to Georgia, was covered with fire trucks and police cars," Concannon said.
A group of police "motormen" met the motorcade at the South Carolina line early Tuesday morning, and planned to escort it the whole way, said Elton Hassell of the Suwannee Police Department. Hassell said he'd been working for several months to organize a group to escort the motorcade.
Also in the motorcade were several current and former NYC firefighters, and Engine 343, a 1951 fire engine that is engraved with the names of the 343 firefighters who lost their lives in the World Trade Center attacks.
A large crowd turned out to greet the motorcade, including dozens of Coweta County firefighters, local police and deputies, and Coweta residents. The local chapter of the Christian Motorcyclists Association was on hand to give out water to the riders.
Everyone in attendance was invited to sign their name to the beam.
There was very little room left for people to sign, so Concannon and others enlisted the help of heavy-duty tow truck driver Jeff Poquette, who just happened to be at the truck stop. With the help of his crane and a few volunteers, the beam was flipped over.
"This is a tow truck operator's dream!" said Concannon as he presented Poquette with a FDNY T-shirt.
Throughout the whole trip, there has been a "wonderful outpouring of support," Concannon said.
"I appreciate all the support. It shows you how united we are as a country," he said.
"People are very, very positive, and emotional."