Trade Center rubble sculpture stops in Vail, heads to Aspen | AspenTimes.com

Trade Center rubble sculpture stops in Vail, heads to Aspen

Sarah Mausolf
Vail correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

Dominique Taylor/Vail DailyNew York City firefighters, from left, John Graziano, Ken Christiansen, Gary Rishell and Warren Forsyth stand around a sculpture made from a piece of steel salvaged from the World Trade Center's north tower on Wednesday in Vail. The firefighters were bringing the sculpture to Aspen.

VAIL, Colo. – Ken Christiansen turns over his wrist, revealing a tattoo that reads “343.” He’s sitting outside the Lifthouse Condominiums in Lionshead, recounting Sept. 11, 2001.

“It was total devastation,” the New York City firefighter recalled.

Christiansen considers himself blessed to have survived the terrorist attack. Many of his colleagues did not; 343 firefighters gave their lives on Sept. 11.

The number “343” also appears on a piece of steel that is temporarily on display in Vail’s Lionshead while en route to Aspen. The 700-pound piece of steel once belonged to the north World Trade Tower, the first tower hit.

Leafing through photos of rubble and people jumping from the towers, fellow New York City firefighter Warren Forsyth said he will never forget Sept. 11.

Forsyth, Christiansen and the other firefighters on the trip, Gary Rishell and John Graziano, spent six months digging through the rubble trying to find victims. They will always remember Sept. 11, and they hope the sculpture they are bringing to Aspen will help the country remember, as well.

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Several months after the terrorist attacks, Aspen hosted various firefighters for ski vacations. The New York City firefighters struck up a friendship with their Aspen counterparts, and in recent months, they arranged to deliver a piece of the World Trade Towers to town.

The visiting firefighters all responded to the terrorist attacks. Vivid memories remain from the experience.

“A lot of people have a tendency to forget 9/11,” Forsyth said. “I lost 22 friends that day.”

The New York City firefighters obtained permission to take a piece of steel from Randall’s Island, one of many locations where the city is storing rubble from the attacks. They brought the former I-beam to a New Jersey welder, who cut a likeness of the Trade Towers into the steel. The design features solid steel stripes where the planes hit each tower.

smausolf@vaildaily.com