Main Street is the only paved road. There’s no general store. Trains pass by, but they never stop. And exactly 301 people live there.
Although Burns, WY. is a speck on the map, it is home to a piece of history.
Sitting on a shelf in an old elementary school is a steel beam from the Twin Towers.
A 1,700-mile journey
Fifteen years after 9/11, virtually all of the artifacts reclaimed from Ground Zero — ranging from crushed ambulances to crumpled elevator motors — were distributed across the country.
Though most of the pieces reside in the 9/11 Memorial and Museum in Manhattan, some ended up in unexpected places — like a tiny town in Wyoming.
Judy Johnstone was the mayor pro-tem of Burns when she heard that a town could submit an application to receive an artifact from the World Trade Center.
“[Residents] were all blown away that … a town of 300 people could get something like this,” she said.
No one from Burns was in the Twin Towers that day in 2001. And many of its residents will never be able to go to Ground Zero or get to visit the museum there.
However, there are many veterans who live in Burns. A piece of history that so profoundly changed America has a particular significance to that community.
“There’s a lot of civic pride here in regards to our veterans,” said Ralph Bartels, current mayor of Burns.
It took about a year of letter-writing and paperwork to obtain their artifact. The small piece from a steel beam arrived in Burns in March 2011. It’s one of only two 9/11 artifacts in the state of Wyoming.
Although the piece of steel sits on a shelf for now, it has a more honorable display in its future — as the centerpiece of a new park. It will stand in honor of veterans.
“To be able to touch a piece of the actual history,” Johnstone said, “is something that means a lot to a lot of people.”