Healdsburg honors 9/11 victims with trade center remnant

  • Welder Bud Pochini and Ben Gilliam discuss the placement of a piece of steel from the World Trade Center before placing it on a pedestal in the Healdsburg Plaza September September 7, 2012.

A tangible reminder of New York's World Trade Center found a home Friday in a corner of the Healdsburg Plaza.

The steel I-beam from the Twin Towers was welded into place in advance of a ceremony Tuesday to dedicate the memorial to the thousands killed in the 2001 terrorist attack.

"It's really supposed to be a remembrance of 9/11 but also for firefighters and police officers that came before us, are present, and come after us," said Ben Gilliam, a retired Healdsburg firefighter who now works as a Sonoma County fire instructor.

He requested the piece from New York City's Fire Department and arranged for its delivery earlier this year.

The approximate 90-pound piece of metal is mounted on a concrete pillar next to the gazebo, and near a bronze statue of a boy carrying a folded American flag that honors local fallen veterans.

The cost of the memorial, estimated at less than $3,000, is being paid for by former Healdsburg resident Fred Vellutini, whose grandson-in-law died on Sept. 11, 2001.

Vellutini, who now lives in Santa Cruz, said his relative was on American Airlines Flight 11, on a business trip out of Boston, on his way to Los Angeles. The plane was hijacked by terrorists and flown into the north tower of the World Trade Center.

"It's my pleasure to do this for the people of Healdsburg," Vellutini said of helping subsidize the cost.

Contractors have also donated their skills to install the memorial, according to Gillian.

His quest to build a 9/11 monument began seven years ago. Gilliam said it took multiple requests to get a piece of the Twin Towers and finally assistance from the co-founder of the World Trade Center Memorial Museum and other officials.

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