Local men remember 9/11 attacks, 10 years after bringing a piece of the Twin Towers to Milwaukee

NOW: Local men remember 9/11 attacks, 10 years after bringing a piece of the Twin Towers to Milwaukee

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- It's been 20 years since the attacks on September 11, 2001, and the tragic events of that day impacted people in cities across the country. 

Many families continue to pick up the pieces of the loss and heartbreak. That includes firefighters and veterans who saw their own go into destruction, heroically. 

Two local men were a part of bringing a piece of that day to Milwaukee. 

It was 10 years after Sept. 11 when Mark Fox, a retired battalion chief for the Milwaukee Fire Department, and Joe Campbell, a Vietnam veteran, embarked on a drive from Milwaukee to New York to bring a beam from the Twin Towers to the War Memorial Center in Milwaukee.  

"I had never met Joe before, didn't know who he was, said Fox recalling their trip.

A lot has changed in the last 10 years. Now, the two hug and exchange gifts. 

"He is my brother," said Campbell. 

They reminisce about their 1,800-mile round-trip, but they never overlook the fact that it was a tragedy they had to go in the first place. 

"So many things on that trip," said Campbell. 

The tenth anniversary of Sept. 11 was the last chance for the War Memorial Center to get a piece of the Twin Towers. It was almost fate that brought together Joe Campbell and Mark Fox.

Campbell had just purchased a truck and the contractor who was supposed to pick up the beam fell through. The two arrived in New York the last day they'd be allowed to pick the steel up. 

"The steel represents a lot to me," said Campbell. "It's a memorial to a travesty, it's also a memorial to freedom."

In a small white truck, draped in an American flag, the steel was brought to the War Memorial Center. Their drive home brought people from Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin. More than 500 motorcycles, state troopers and firefighters lined the interstate with American flags. 

"There were firemen on every overpass we went under all the way up to Milwaukee." said Fox. "We got to Milwaukee, the interstate was shut down...and this is a memory I'm always going to have. A trooper pulled around really quick to the waystation at the border and he saluted us." 

Both men still get emotional looking at the beam. The trip to New York to see the collapsed towers wasn't a first for Fox. He was also there in November 2001, a month after the towers fell, to help with funeral services of people who lost their lives. 

"It was like a wet, rusty steel smell that we could smell throughout the area," Fox recalls. "Twenty years later when I touch the beam, it's rough. There's obviously something that melted in this location here." 

He says he can feel the lives of those lost that day. 

Looking back on that day 10 years ago when they drove back with the steel beam, Campbell recalls a lot of tears. 

"That this not just meant something that was special," said Campbell. "It was sacred." 

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