"We had no idea what we were getting into when we went up there (to New York City), just thinking we were going to get an I-beam," Gary Shatzer said.
"We brought history to the township," Geoff Rickett said.
Shatzer and Rickett are Washington Township, Pa., municipal employees who volunteered to pick up the steel Wednesday. They left before sunrise and drove to John F. Kennedy International Airport's Hangar 17, where the artifacts have been stored by the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey.
Township officials are seeking people to serve on a committee that will decide how to display the 1,088-pound artifact.
For their part, Shatzer and Rickett hope the steel is encased in something so that no one sprays graffiti on it.
"In my eyes, they'd be painting graffiti on those who died," Rickett said.
Shatzer, 58, of Greencastle, Pa., and Rickett, 31, of Waynesboro, have worked for the township for a combined 33 years. They said retrieving the artifact is their most memorable project.
Rickett said he will tell his 3-year-old son, Austin, about the experience when he's old enough to understand.
"You got a weird feeling as soon as you walked in," Rickett said of entering the hangar.
They encountered twisted steel bins, rubble stored in tents, a radio tower, part of a boiler and a police vehicle wrapped in plastic to protect it.
"It was really something to see all that, knowing what happened," Shatzer said. "You couldn't help but feel for the people who lost their lives."
Port Authority employees used a forklift to load the steel onto Washington Township's pickup truck.
"I think those guys had a lot of respect for what they were doing," Shatzer said.
The pair tried to drive to ground zero, but heavy traffic prevented them from getting close.