Darlington Volunteer Fire Company 9/11 memorial a community effort

If it weren't for the community, there wouldn't be a memorial to dedicate Sunday.

It's been a long process for the Darlington Volunteer Fire Company to get its 9/11 memorial, which will be in front of its Dublin station, 1520 Whiteford Road, built. But at 2 p.m. on the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that changed American history, the monument, which literally took a village to construct, will be complete.

In September 2009, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey invited police, fire departments, mayors and other elected officials throughout the county to ask for pieces from the fallen World Trade Center towers to be part of memorials. There were 1,800 to 2,000 pieces available, according to The New York Times, and all pieces given were to be put on public display and not sold or given to anyone else.

Robert Nelson, 57, of Dublin, emailed the port authority in October of that year and got the ball rolling to get a piece of the World Trade Center for a future 9/11 memorial. Because of the number of requests, paperwork wasn't sent back to the fire company until December 2010. In February, everything was completed and Nelson, who has been with the fire company for 41 or 42 years, along with fellow volunteer firefighter Donald Thomas, drove up to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York on March 24 to pick up the piece of steel.

The artifacts, as the port authority prefers the remnants to be called, fills a hangar at the airport. Normally, the public isn't allowed to walk through the hangar, but Nelson was escorted past the mangled materials on his way to the restroom.

"There were some amazing pieces in there," Nelson said. He went on to describe a bike rack that still had the bike chained to it, completely covered in dust from that day.

That was only the beginning of the fire company's journey.

A few months after the steel beam was brought back to Harford County, planning began, but the estimated cost for the monument was around $12,000 — well over the company's budget of $5,000.

"I went 'Oh, Lord. We don't have that kind of money'," Jerry Scarborough, 58, of Dublin, said.

Scarborough, who was with the fire company for seven years before leaving to be a Maryland State Police trooper for 25 years and has been back for two, called his cousin, Danny Scarborough, who suggested he call local architect Marta Noe.

"Marta reminds me of that bossy older sister some of us have," he said jokingly. "She says 'Do this and do this and you'll have a beautiful memorial by Sept. 11.'"

Noe remembers getting the call on July 6 from a contractor friend, describing the situation the fire company was in. She started right away. For free.

"We had a barn fire a couple years ago in the middle of winter and five local fire companies responded," Noe said. "Those firefighters never hesitate." She jumped on the chance to help any way she could.

"When someone like that calls and says 'Help,' I can't imagine saying anything else other than 'of course we'll help you,'" she said. Since the company was working with a relatively small budget, Noe agreed to do her work on the project pro bono.

She immediately began redesigning the memorial so it could be built before Sept. 11 and within budget.

That's where the community came in.

When word got out that help was needed to get the memorial built, companies started getting on board.

Oldcastle Precast Inc. in Edgewood donated the concrete cap for the memorial; Brown's Glass in York, Pa., drastically cut its price for the glass needed; Ralph Borden, a member of the fire company, did the masonry work; Paul Botzler of Tamarack Construction Co. in Monkton donated his structural engineering services; Value Electric donated lights and did all the electrical work needed; Mike Barberry, owner of Aldino Sod Farms, donated eight pallets of sod and delivered it to the site; even a random citizen who happened to be passing by on his truck offered to lay the brick. Scarborough didn't catch the man's name but was grateful for the happenstance.

More individuals and companies than either Scarborough or Noe could name were all part of the memorial's construction.

"It's because everyone cared," Scarborough said, that everything was able to happen. "So many people who have donated their time and energy and people are so passionate about this. It's been exciting to be a part of it," Noe said.

As of Tuesday evening, the 9/11 memorial wasn't complete — the glass for the sides hadn't arrived — but it will be done by Sunday's dedication.

In addition to the steel beam from the World Trade Center, a New York firefighter helmet and shield will be placed in the memorial.

The shield will bare the number of firefighters killed that day, as well as those who have died from health complications caused by the horrific conditions at Ground Zero. The number will be changed every time another service member dies.

"I don't know anybody there that died," Nelson said, "but as an American and as a fireman, it hit me hard."

He paused for a moment before continuing.

"You knew, kind of, as a fireman that with going up there, that helping getting people out as they're passing them on the stairwell, a lot of them probably felt that they wouldn't be coming back down," Nelson said. This memorial, he added, gives a sense of what those men and women went through.

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