Teen brings World Trade Center steel to Jackson memorial


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By Andrew Martins
Staff Writer

JACKSON – When Patrick Byrnes was 2 years old, he knew nothing of the deadly acts that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001 or how the nation collectively shuddered from brazen acts of terrorism that were perpetrated on the United States.

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Patrick, who is now a 17-year-old Jackson Memorial High School graduate and Eagle Scout candidate, has spent almost four years working to bring a piece of steel from the World Trade Center to Jackson for a special memorial at the municipal building.

“You don’t really have a Sept. 11 memorial in Jackson. The closest one is a few towns over,” he said. “I thought this was the perfect project to give back to the town.”

The completed memorial – which includes a piece of steel from the World Trade Center wreckage and two granite towers that represent the North and South towers that were destroyed in the terrorist attack on lower Manhattan – is on the east side of the municipal building on West Veterans Highway.

While Patrick saw the memorial as something he could give to Jackson, it also has a personal meaning because his father, Richard, was working for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in 2001 and survived the attack.

“When it came time to pick an Eagle Scout project, I was thinking about how much my father gave his time to take me to my scout meetings or to baseball games and how much he gave to me, so I thought my way to give back to him would be through this memorial,” Patrick said.

Richard Byrne said the memorial is a reflection of his son’s character.

“Patrick is one of those kids where everybody loves him, his friends, his teachers, his family,” Byrne said. “He is an old soul in a teenager’s body who just loves life and is not scared of a challenge.”

Patrick said it took time, effort and fundraising to complete the memorial. He launched the project in 2012 when he contacted the Port Authority in a bid to obtain a piece of steel from the World Trade Center. He said a representative of the agency indicated that a piece of steel could be donated for the project.

Soon afterward, however, superstorm Sandy struck the eastern seaboard, greatly impacting the Port Authority and other governmental agencies.

Work on the memorial stalled until 2014, Patrick said, when he met first with Jackson Mayor Michael Reina and then with state Assemblyman Ronald Dancer to ask about obtaining a piece of steel from the World Trade Center.

He said that shortly after he met with Dancer, the piece of steel was at his home.

Dancer said he was able to obtain two pieces of steel from the Port Authority after contacting Bill Baroni, a former New Jersey state senator who went to work for the interstate agency.

The assemblyman confirmed that one piece of steel was donated to Patrick for the memorial in Jackson and he said the second piece of steel will be used in a permanent memorial to be displayed at the Plumsted Township municipal building in September.

Dancer is a resident and former mayor of Plumsted. He currently serves as that municipality’s business administrator.

“It is hard to put into words your emotions and feelings of that event,” he said, reflecting on what occurred in New York City, Pennsylvania and Arlington, Va., on a clear Tuesday morning 15 years ago. “It is so important to accentuate the impact of Sept. 11 so the next generation will always remember and never forget.”

In order to obtain the granite towers he needed to complete the memorial in Jackson, Patrick shopped around for a vendor while using an online crowdfunding service to raise more than $2,000.

“Through that, I raised the money and was able to get the towers, the flowers, the concrete and everything that is at the site right now,” he said.

Work at the site was completed on May 15 and a formal dedication ceremony is expected to take place at a future date. A committee will review the project before Patrick earns the rank of Eagle Scout.

Patrick will attend the University of New Haven in Connecticut to pursue a degree in criminal justice and international affairs. He thanked those who helped him complete his project.

“There were so many people who helped me along the way,” he said. “Through fundraising or moral support, it was a great help and I want to give everyone the biggest ‘thank you’ possible.”

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