On the 15th anniversary of 9/11, people will gather at Milwaukee’s Veterans War Memorial, where a piece of steel recovered from the twin towers sits. The steel’s journey to Wisconsin is one of patriotism and hope - being taught to students across Milwaukee.
The twisted piece of steel -- with concrete and rebar still attached -- arrived in Milwaukee in 2011.
“A Vietnam veteran, Joe Campbell, and a retired battalion chief, Mark Fox, from the Milwaukee Fire Department, drove out to New York. They picked up the piece of 9/11 steel,” Mollie Manhattan said.
Campbell and Fox's long road-trip to New York and back has been written into a children's book: The Little White Truck With The Big Mission.
Manhattan, the co-author of the book, works with a non-profit that supports service members. She said the book was written to help parents and teachers talk about the events of 9/11.
“A lot of people just think about that tragedy. And it's not just about that tragedy - we do want to recognize the people who gave their lives because it was a tremendous loss but it’s also about what took place after. It’s that hope. That message of united we stand,” Manhattan said.
Each year around the anniversary of 9/11, teams of Milwaukee firefighters, officers and service members are helping children learn the meaning of purpose, freedom and unity. Deputy Fire Chief Aaron Lipski said that is equally important to the book are the deliveries.
“All of these fifth-graders will now have had a chance to interact on a pretty personal level - with a firefighter, with a marine, someone from the navy, with a police officer. They will have had an opportunity and that in of itself should self-replicate as we move on down the road,” Lipski said.
Since there is currently a “disconnect” between communities and people in uniform, Lipski feels the interaction is very important.
Lipski also compares 9/11 to the bombing of Pearl Harbor for his generation. They are days that he believes – “must never be forgotten.”
“We can't just let it fade away. We have to keep this memory alive,” Lipski said.