By Kate Merrill

ACTON (CBS) – It’s hard to miss the memorial that sits outside the Acton Public Safety Building. But what you might not know is it’s filled with symbolism and meaning.

There’s a firefighter’s helmet in the middle symbolizing the deaths of 343 New York City firefighters in the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. The steel beams are the two towers, the base is a pentagon and the plantings next to it represent Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

World Trade Center steel is part of the 9/11 memorial in Acton. (WBZ-TV)

And the two residents lost, flight attendant Madeline Amy Sweeney and Phil Rosenzweig, both on American Airlines Flight 11, are honored too, with their signatures in stone.

But at the center is the steel. It’s from the World Trade Center.

Acton Police Detective Jon Stackhouse and Acton Firefighter Tom Matthews went to New York to get them, on a trip they will never forget.

“Just incredible, just awe inspiring to see how they had it all put together and then having Mike Sweeney come down with us and on the ride down hear the stories about his wife and what she had done and the things that happened it was incredible,” Matthews told WBZ-TV.

But they didn’t just get the steel, they created a legacy around it.

“Tom and I put our heads together and we literally grabbed a long paper napkin and with a pencil and sketched out what you see before you,” Stackhouse said.

In nearby Bedford, the firehouse has its own piece of World Trade Center steel. It’s smaller, but still significant.

World Trade Center steel is part of the 9/11 memorial in Bedford. (WBZ-TV)

“We keep it in our lobby so it’s really a constant reminder as you walk by every day, of to the sacrifices that everyone made on September 11th,” Bedford Fire Captain Mark Sullivan told WBZ.

In fact, more than 60 communities in Massachusetts have a piece of the towers now, including Logan Airport, where the TSA has two sections. One is in their office and the other is at the State Police barracks there.

It’s a unique way to honor and preserve our painful past, but also, to never forget.

“There is not a day that I don’t walk by this and I think of 9/11 and everybody thinks where they were on that day,” Stackhouse said.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey gave away 9/11 artifacts from the World Trade Center to deserving applicants until 2016 when they ran out. They have given out 2,600 pieces of steel to communities in all fifty states and ten foreign countries.

Kate Merrill