SEQUIM — Police Chief Bill Dickinson recently put out the call to his 21-member department: Anybody want to drive to New York City to collect an 843-pound artifact?
“Several officers stepped forward,” Dickinson reported Friday, “and offered themselves and their pickup trucks.”
So Thursday, the chief, with Officer Randy Kellas and Detective Darrell Nelson, will climb into Nelson’s 1-ton truck — the most comfortable one available — and set out for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, where they will pick up a piece of the World Trade Center.
No big send-off is planned, Dickinson said. To his mind, the journey, though it personalizes the men’s commitment to their fellow first-responders, “is inconsequential considering what it represents.”
The three men will spend a day in New York City visiting Ground Zero and then drive back to Sequim in time to deliver the artifact, “a chunk of steel,” Dickinson said, by noon Sept. 11.
On display in Sequim
To mark the 10th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center, the 3-foot square piece of metal will go on display at the Museum & Arts Center’s DeWitt building, 544 N. Sequim Ave. across from Sequim High School, from noon until 3 p.m. that day.
Next exhibit, the artifact will be on display at the Veterans of Foreign Wars post at 169 E. Washington St. from 3 p.m. until about 4 p.m.
After Sept. 11, the artifact should become part of a permanent monument, Dickinson believes.
He said he’ll soon speak to the Sequim City Council about erecting it in front of City Hall at 152 W. Cedar St.
In a sense, Dickinson and the city are inheriting the World Trade Center memento from a long-ago request.
Former Police Chief Bob Spinks, who resigned from his post July 2, 2010, at City Manager Steve Burkett’s urging, had responded to the Port Authority’s call for applications from communities across the United States.
The Port Authority, keeper of artifacts from the fallen trade center towers, planned to distribute the artifacts; it received 1,200 applications for the 550 pieces on its registry, Dickinson said.
Sequim was one of the cities selected to receive one, unbeknownst to the new chief.
“I came in months later, and I got an email from the Port Authority saying, ‘Do you still want this? You haven’t got back to us,’” Dickinson recalled.
He, Kellas and Nelson will be getting back East in a matter of three days.
They’re planning to spell one another on 16-hour stretches of driving, to arrive next Sunday night or the Monday after.
The chief noted they’re taking vacation time for the Labor Day weekend trip and charging none of their expenses to the city of Sequim.
Community members have donated some $1,400 so far toward trip expenses, Dickinson said; he estimates that will pay for shared hotel rooms and some food between here and New York City.
Dickinson is still accepting contributions, since a similar artifact-retrieval trip to New York by a group of Gig Harbor firefighters cost $2,000.
Checks made out to the City of Sequim 9/11 Fund may be dropped off at the Sequim Police Department in the J.C. Penney shopping center at 609 W. Washington St.
The chief, for his part, sees the World Trade Center artifact as a symbol of the Sept. 11, 2001, tragedy that killed 2,753 people, among them 411 emergency workers.
“For first responders, this is very representative,” said Dickinson, who is in his 40th year as a public safety worker.
Those 343 firefighters, 60 police officers and eight paramedics “were all running into the burning building, while the others were trying to get out. That really defines public safety,” he said.
Dickinson envisions a temporary home for the artifact beside where another firefighter, Capt. Dale W. Kruse, is also remembered in a plaque in front of City Hall.
Kruse, a member of the then-volunteer Sequim Fire Department, died in the line of duty Aug. 30,1978.
When Sequim builds its long-awaited new City Hall, Dickinson hopes the steel piece will take its place there.
Sequim Mayor Ken Hays said Friday that the City Council is nearly ready to announce the selection of a site for the new building.
It could address the issue, he added, at its next meeting at 6 p.m. Monday, Sept. 12, at the Transit Center, 190 W. Cedar St.
Hays added that he’s certain the council will support the idea of installing the World Trade Center artifact at Sequim’s new City Hall, wherever it’s built.
“How can you not?” he asked.
________Features Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3550 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.