9/11 memorial at South King Fire & Rescue Station 64 in Federal Way. Olivia Sullivan/The Mirror

9/11 memorial at South King Fire & Rescue Station 64 in Federal Way. Olivia Sullivan/The Mirror

History at home: South King Fire 9/11 memorial explained

In 2011, two South King firefighters drove New York to retrieve a steel beam of the World Trade Center.

Pieces of wreckage from a September day that forever shaped the history of the United States live outside of South King Fire and Rescue Station 64 in Federal Way.

The memorial at South King Fire and Rescue Station 64, located on South 320th Street just east of I-5, displays a 10-foot-long piece of steel from the World Trade Center; a stone from the Shankstown, Pennsylvania, the site of Flight 93’s crash; and a block of limestone from the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. The memorial was dedicated in 2014.

The memorial also includes a stalwart pear tree in tribute to the only tree that survived at Ground Zero in New York City.

Nearly 3,000 people — including 343 firefighters — died in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. On that date, members of the Islamic group al-Qaeda hijacked four passenger jets and crashed them into both World Trade Center towers, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and a field in Pennsylvania.

In 2011, South King Fire’s Lt. Scott Mahlen and firefighter Sven Schievink drove 55 hours to New York to retrieve the steel beam, which was stored in a warehouse at JFK International Airport.

It was an emotional experience for both men, especially Schievink, who grew up in New York and lost friends in the 9/11 attacks.

“We wanted to do this with honor and respect and bring this piece back to the Federal Way community so we can let the nation know that we haven’t forgotten,” Schievink said at a ceremony on Aug. 30, 2011 at SKFR’s St. 62.

Inside the New York warehouse was evidence from the suicide attacks on the twin towers. There were rows of fire trucks and smashed police cars, along with a piece of jet engine from an airplane that crashed into one of the skyscrapers.

Mahlen and Schievink loaded the steel beam onto a trailer with running boards that listed all the victims in the attacks. When they parked at Ground Zero, random people came up to the trailer to point out family members and share stories.

“Ten years later, the feelings were still just as raw back there as if it had just happened,” Mahlen said of the 2011 journey.

As the firefighters drove the steel beam back to Federal Way, the trailer caught the attention of passing motorists on the interstate, Mahlen said. Even at 60 mph, other vehicles would crowd around the trailer to get a glimpse of the steel beam.

“The steel is a reminder of the thousands of rescue workers and volunteers that worked feverishly for countless hours and long days in hopes of finding someone still alive in the rubble of the collapsed towers,” said Chaplain Corby Hunich on Aug. 30, 2011. “I believe this steel is also a reminder to us of the strength and perseverance that united our nation together in the aftermath of this vicious attack on Americans.”

During the 2011 trip, the firefighters also picked up a rock from Shanksville, Pa., with help from the National Park Service. The cracks on the rock resulted from the impact of United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed into a field, killing all 44 people on board including the four hijackers.

One of the passengers aboard that flight was Todd Beamer, who helped lead a revolt against the hijackers with the battle cry, “Let’s roll.” Beamer is the namesake for Todd Beamer High School, which opened in Federal Way in 2003.

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