- Special Sections
- Public Notices
When a tarp was pulled away from a beat-up fire truck the first time Christopher Kolakowski saw it, he immediately reached out his hand to touch it.
“It was a very spiritual moment for me,” he said.
The director of the General George Patton Museum of Leadership was looking for the first time at what is believed to be the first fire truck to respond to the Pentagon as it burned and partially collapsed after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
He lived about 50 miles from Washington, D.C., at the time of the attack.
Foam 161, a foam fire truck, was several yards from the building at the time of the plane’s impact.
Part of the metal cage that houses the engine is melted and twisted and one massive tire is flattened by the heat of the fire.
The truck is being added to the museum collection, making the Patton Museum the second in the world to display to the public a fire truck that responded to the 2001 terrorist attacks.
Museum officials hope to host an event when the truck is moved from where it is being prepared for display at the museum. They have not decided when the festivities will take place.
Being able to house the truck is awesome and humbling to Kolakowski.
“The real object, the real place, has a power that reproductions and photographs don’t have,” he said.
Museum officials hope to place a large-scale gallery of the Pentagon on fire behind the truck and provide a guide of information about the piece and its history.
“It’s a very powerful story,” he said. “My job is to get out of the way and let it tell itself.”
The truck was offered to the museum by the Center of Military History in August and arrived in September.
Museum employees still are researching its history. They don’t think any of the firefighters on the truck on Sept. 11, 2001, died at the Pentagon.
Military museums’ primary goal is to educate members of the military, Kolakowski said.
Base Realignment and Closure changes meant some of the exhibits housed at the museum in Fort Knox followed soldiers to Fort Benning, Ga.
New exhibits are being accumulated for the June reopening of parts of the museum being transformed to correspond with the mission of teaching leadership.
The fire truck is a powerful example of what is being accomplished during the museum transformation and the lessons about leadership it is designed to teach, Kolakowski said.
It isn’t only soldiers who have demonstrated leadership qualities in relation to the military. The firefighters who helped at the Pentagon displayed such attributes, he said.
Before being displayed, the truck is scheduled for a basic cleaning, drainage of its fluids and stabilization where one tire is flat. The process also includes preserving the truck so it looks the same 50 years from now, Kolakowski said.
“We have a responsibility not only to the past, but to the future,” he said.
Some of the new privates were 7 years old when the attacks took place, and it’s more like history to them than an event they lived through. It’s important they remember that day and the impact it has had, Kolakowski said.
“I want them to understand and I want them to remember just what 9/11 was,” he said. “It was our generation’s Pearl Harbor, and I want them to remember what it was to the Army.”
The Army never missed a day of work, despite damage to its command center and the deaths and injuries of some military leaders, Kolakowski said.
“This is an important item from an important day in the history of this country and this Army,” he said.
At Kentucky Veterans Cemetery-Central in Radcliff, another piece of 9/11 history became part of the local landscape. Work started Wednesday morning on a stone structure that will surround the 9/11 memorial at the facility.
All of the stones — more than 40 pieces — came from the Pentagon attacks.
Mel Borich, one of the volunteers at the site Wednesday, said work should be complete within a few weeks. Workers were expected to return again today to lay more stones.
Each stone block weighs between 249 and 300 pounds, Borich said.
Amber Coulter can be reached at (270) 505-1746 or email@example.com. Jeff D’Alessio contributed
to this article.