FOREST GROVE, Ore. - The huge American flag flying at half-mast waved slowly in light wind Tuesday morning under a clear blue sky in Forest Grove echoing the clear weather 11 years ago in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001.
At the base of the 120-foot flag pole, a section of a steel beam from the debris of the collapsed World Trade Center towers was surrounded by almost 200 people, including many firefighters.
It's the first time the remnant from the World Trade Center has been brought out for the public remembrance of 9/11.
Forest Grove Fire Department Chief Michael Kinkade said the department received the section of steel just after the 10th anniversary of the attacks last year. It has been on display inside the fire station.
Tuesday morning, a single photograph of New York City Fire Department Capt. Patrick "Paddy" Brown, who died in the North Tower, sat on the piece of steel. Kinkade said each year, he picks the name of one victim of the attacks to pay special tribute.
Brown is a revered figure from Sept. 11. He was a highly decorated sergeant in the Marines who served in Vietnam and was recognized by President George Bush in 1991 for a daring rescue during a fire, according to an online biography. >>Watch a tribute video to Capt. Brown
Brown was in one of the first groups of firefighters to respond to the World Trade Center attacks, according to the online post. He was 48 years old.
"His last words were 'thank you' as he reported his position on the 34th floor as they were heading up," Kinkade said of Brown.
Many people came forward to look at and touch the piece of steel Tuesday. One man, George Bidimen of Forest Grove, talked to his young son, Kegan, about where it came from.
"I actually saved a bunch of newspaper clippings from it, and wrote down how my feelings were when it happened," Bidimen said. "And that way I could share it with them."
When the ceremony was over, firefighters gently carried the weathered section of World Trade Center steel back into the firehouse.
Back in 2009, when the big 30-foot by 60-foot flag was first raised in Forest Grove, there were some objections to its size.
Detractors said it was too big or ostentatious, but others, including the mayor, veterans, scout groups and many local residents came out in support of the big flag when it was raised to the top of the flag pole.
The 60-foot flag only flies on certain days, including Sept. 11. On other days, one of two smaller flags is flown.