Local firefighter brings a piece of ground zero to Castle Rock

Steel-box column on display at public safety training facility

Thelma Grimes
tgrimes@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 2/28/21

After six years of efforts led by Oren Bersagel-Briese, a steel-box column recovered from ground zero is now on display in a special memorial at the Castle Rock Public Safety Training Facility. While …

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Local firefighter brings a piece of ground zero to Castle Rock

Steel-box column on display at public safety training facility

Posted

After six years of efforts led by Oren Bersagel-Briese, a steel-box column recovered from ground zero is now on display in a special memorial at the Castle Rock Public Safety Training Facility.

While getting the 350-pound piece of steel to Castle Rock and built into a proper memorial took years, Bersagel-Briese, a Castle Rock Fire and Rescue Department division chief at the training center, committed to honoring the first responders who died in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks by serving as a founding member of the annual 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb, which gained national attention.

In 2014, Bersagel-Briese said he received a call from a stair-climb organizer in Pennsylvania. He was told there was a leftover piece of the steel columns that had been underneath the World Trade Center. None of the pieces could be placed in private hands, and this one needed a public home.

“We gladly accepted the responsibility to have a public place for this,” Bersagel-Briese said. “For me, and all firefighters, 9/11 has always been important to all of us.”

Bersagel-Briese, a fourth-generation firefighter, said after 9/11, he always felt a sense of duty to pay tribute and support the firefighters and police officers lost that day.

It started small with a handful of firefighters from Denver and Castle Rock getting together to climb stairs in 2004.

“We started doing it for some camaraderie,” he said. “We would run the stairs and then ask when we planned to do it again.”

One of the firefighters said the climb should be done on Sept. 11, Bersagel-Briese said. They planned the inaugural gathering in 2005. The five firefighters climbed 110 flights of stairs, which is the number of flights of stairs firefighters faced in 2001 when the World Trade Center came under attack.

Now, in its 16th year, the annual Castle Rock stair climb is capped at 343 participants, a tribute to the number of firefighters that died on 9/11.

As the 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb in Castle Rock gained more attention, departments across the nation asked Bersagel-Briese to help create more.

In a normal year, Bersagel-Briese said, there are more than 16,000 firefighters paying tribute to lost comrades on 9/11. Proceeds from the events go to the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, which provides funding for firefighter counseling services in New York. The funds also assist families of fallen firefighters.

In 16 years, Bersagel-Briese estimated that more than $5 million has been raised nationally.

Looking at the piece of steel now on display atop a copper frame, Bersagel-Briese said, “I am humbled by it every day. Knowing that a firefighter from here in Castle Rock can make that happen — it's special. To have this piece here is honorable.”

Bersagel-Briese said they chose the training facility for the memorial because it is a place where both police officers and firefighters train. He stressed that not just firefighters died on 9/11 and police should be honored as well.

While not a public path downtown, Bersagel-Briese said he invites residents to see and pay tribute to the memorial. The training center is located at 303 Malibu St. in Castle Rock.

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