The annual ceremony marking 9/11 at Motts Military Museum in Groveport is a reunion of sorts.

New York City firefighters who were at Ground Zero when the World Trade Center towers collapsed nearly 17 years ago are invited to speak during the ceremony held by the Madison Township Fire Department.

Over time, the firefighters, survivors of the deadliest attack on U.S. soil, have become close friends of the museum's founder, Warren Motts.

"They've indicated to me that they love to come here because we remember," Motts said. "They said in New York, it's just another day ... My friends say (New Yorkers) don't remember it like they wish they would, that they've moved on, that it's just another day."

Motts wants to make certain those who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001 are never forgotten. He's raising money to build a $2.5 million, 5,000-square-foot-building to house what's considered to be the largest collection of 9/11 artifacts outside of Ground Zero.

Plans are for the building to be adjacent to the existing museum at 5075 S. Hamilton Road. Crews have already started moving utilities and constructing a walkway.

Motts has raised $140,000 from the museum's more than 700 members all over the world, most of them veterans. He hopes corporations will help deliver the rest.

Donations can be made through the museum's website at mottsmilitarymuseum .org/funding.html

"If they understand we are 550 miles from two-thirds of the U.S. population, there will be many people coming here to see it," he said. "It will be a drawing card."

The 9/11 collection includes a fire truck crushed during the collapse of the towers. Motts currently opens the doors to a storage area at 10 a.m. Thursdays so patrons can see Ladder 18, a 42-foot fire truck from the Fort Pitt Lower Manhattan Fire Station.

"It's a pretty powerful story when they see the fire truck and realize what it's been through," Motts said.

Other 9/11 artifacts include two police cars; a 17-foot sign recovered from base of the World Trade Center; part of the North Tower antenna; a stairway; and a radar console that was used to ground all West Coast aircraft on 9/11.

Motts also has stone pieces from the Pentagon, which was struck by a hijacked jet, Flight 77, that crashed into the structure.

In addition to the 9/11 collection, Motts Military Museum houses artifacts from every war fought by the United States, including 10 American flags flown in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan and china and silverware from one of Saddam Hussein's palaces.

Motts, a longtime photographer, founded the museum in 1987, and in 1999, moved it to its current location, a 5,100-square-foot facility on nearly four acres.

During his 50 years as a photographer, Motts developed many contacts all over the world, which he said led him to many of the items in his museum. It was while serving as the official photographer on the American Freedom Train during the nation's bicentennial that he decided to construct the museum.

"The reason we are where we are is because we had people willing to defend our freedom," Motts said. "I don't want the younger generation to forget the sacrifice that's been made."

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