Remembering Sept. 11: WTC Memorial beams arrived in Savannah

Published: Sep. 6, 2021 at 2:21 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 10, 2021 at 10:27 AM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - The attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, shook America to its core. It’s a day we promised to “Never Forget.”

“I was at work that day. Trying to solve a problem with how to program a Nokia cell phone,” Chris Rawlins said.

Rawlins is a maritime contractor and spends his days at the Port of Savannah. But he still recalls the moment America fell under attack.

“I remember stopping and getting to getting to a television, as the second plane hit the second tower,” he said.

Nearly 3,000 people died when the planes crashed in New York City, Washington D.C. and Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The ripple of those who lost loved ones spread across the country, and America grieved together.

“Nobody in the country that wasn’t affected by that tragedy and, you know, in some level.”

While Rawlins didn’t carry the grief of losing a loved one, he would come face-to-face with that heartbreak in the years to come.

In August of 2007, 580 tons of steel arrived at the Port of Savannah. The steel beams from Luxembourg would one day be used to build the World Trade Center Memorial in New York.

But before making the journey north, four of the beams served different purpose.

“They were about 38 foot long as I recall, they were painted white, and people wrote, drew, signed them and, you know, bright colors and then I believe all of that was going to be preserved.”

The beams traveled the country, giving people the opportunity to share their memories and messages. They eventually ended up in Savannah, stored in a warehouse off Jimmy Deloach Parkway.

Rawlins was Vice President of Sales at Ocean Link, Inc. when he showed WTOC the beams in 2008.

“I remember being really surprised and really humbled that the number of people coming to see these beams in Savannah, Georgia, even people that were local that were directly affected by the tragedy that lost a loved one,” Rawlins said.

He helped guide people who wanted to see the beams so they could take a moment and leave their memories.

“When I would take them to the building where the beams were, and they would walk up and see them. Most of the people that came got very emotional,” Rawlins said.

Rawlins says the beams were at the Ocean Link, Inc. warehouse for several months, and after witnessing how much it meant others, he formed his own emotional connection.

“A number of days to be honest I actually would walk out and just kind of take some time and read what was left, read what was written and read the thoughts and the things that people wanting to share it was very touching,” Rawlins said.

Now those words and those emotions continue to honor the memories of those taken away 20 years ago.

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