Spike Cutolo was in her dress blues as she made her way to the foot of the steel beam. Ten years ago, the metal was part of an elevator shaft on the 21st floor of the World Trade Tower. Today, it's the centerpiece of a 9/11 memorial in Hudson, dedicated Sunday.
More than 1,000 people came out for the ceremony, which lasted about an hour and was attended by state and local dignitaries, including Gov. John Lynch, U.S. Sens. Kelly Ayotte and Jeanne Shaheen, and Congressman Charlie Bass.
Before the ceremony began, Cutolo joined a line of people waiting to touch the beam. She knelt down and reached out her hand, laying it gently against the metal. She bowed her head, lingering a little longer than most who came to this hallowed ground, to pay their respects.
"I got sick from 9/11. They retired me after 16 years with the force," said Cutolo, who moved to New Hampshire shortly after leaving NYPD in 2006. "I find it ironic that there's no way of me getting back to New York today -- and the first responders weren't even invited, anyway -- and yet, here I am, with a piece of the tower, in what is now my home state."
Cutolo said she has developed lung problems in the aftermath of 9/11, including a mass on her lung, not uncommon among many of those rescuers who inhaled the "toxic dust" that hung in the air for days.
"I think a lot of what goes through my head now is that we tend to focus on those who died. There were a lot of civic volunteers that day. What weighs on my mind today is all of those who've died since 9/11, and all those who've contracted illnesses," Cutolo said.
She began coming to New Hampshire as a getaway from the stress of her job as a New York City police detective -- her first trip was during the ice storm of 1998. After that, New Hampshire became her only annual vacation. And once she was retired due to health reasons -- five years earlier than she'd anticipated -- she knew where home was.
"I fell in love with New Hampshire, and I'm happy to be here, especially today," Cutolo said.
She carried with her a plastic bag with some relics of 9/11. She tried to talk about them, but the emotion was too strong.
"I'm sorry. I can't -- I just can't, right now," she said
Her message to others still working through the grief of that day is simple.
"We are good at remembering the shock and sorrow. It would be good if we could remember everything else we felt that day -- there was such an outpouring from around the world. That's something to remember," Cutolo said.