By Scott Prater
The 2,500 pound, 18-foot long hunk of steel sat in place for more than 30 years. It once connected I-beams and supported cables and equipment inside a structure more than a 1,000 feet tall. But, on September 11, 2001 the beam crashed to the ground as part of the wreckage of the World Trade Center following the worst terrorist attack in the history of the United States.
On April 26 that same beam, now a rusted, contorted piece of wreckage, was transported to its new home as a symbol of the tragic events that occurred on that day almost nine years ago.
Hundreds of Schriever Airmen and civilians lined the streets in solemn attention as the box beam, sitting on a flat bed, traveled onto the base. Members of the 50th Civil Engineer Squadron Fire Department created an archway using water cannons and a caravan of dignitaries escorted it to a viewing area near the Main Fitness Center.
“We’re honored that the people of New York City and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey would share a piece of the building with us,” said Col. Edward Baron, 50th Mission Support Group commander. “September 11, 2001 was a sad day for this nation and it certainly changed the focus of our military. Many of the personnel on this base have deployed as a result of the events of that day, and of course, all of the operations we do here on a day-to-day basis support that war effort.”
The World Trade Center box beam will soon be the focus piece of a 9/11 memorial at Schriever, which will serve to remind Airmen of the cause they are fighting for.
“We started this process with a suggestion from Col. Butch Kievenaar, a former commander of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, who told me that many of his Soldiers were nine or 10 years old on Sept. 11, 2001,” said Donald Addy, president of the National Homeland Defense Foundation. “He thought it would be very helpful if there was a way we could erect memorials to that tragic day so that Soldiers would know why they are fighting and what this is all about.”
Colonel Baron said the new memorial, which is currently in the design phase, should be constructed in the next few months. Leaders here on base are considering several sites for the memorial.
Obtaining the piece required an immense amount of work and dedication from a variety of people.
Mr. Addy initiated the effort after learning the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey desired to distribute pieces of the collapsed towers around the nation for the purpose of building memorials to the victims of the tragedy. He contacted the Port Authority and asked if he could obtain artifacts for each of Colorado’s military installations. He said the commanders of each base in Colorado eagerly desired their own artifact, so he started the process of obtaining them late last year.
“When the Port Authority found out what we had in mind they moved our request to the top of the list,” Mr. Addy said. “They granted our request during December 2009.”
When Mr. Addy walked into Hangar 17 at John F. Kennedy Airport he was overwhelmed by the sight of an 80,000 square-foot hangar filled with the remnants of the twin towers. He selected five items, one each for Schriever, Peterson and Buckley Air Force Bases, Fort Carson and the United States Air Force Academy, tagged them, and began making arrangements for shipment to Colorado.
A Colorado distributing company stepped up to transport Schriever’s artifact across the country.
“We don’t ever want people to forget what happened on Sept. 11, 2001,” Colonel Baron said. “This will always be a reminder.”
Members of the 50th Civil Engineering Squadron are currently considering design options and will present their ideas to the 50th SW Commander Col. Wayne Monteith within the next few months.
“We have a couple of designs and we’ll stand it upright so people can see it,” Colonel Baron said of the artifact. “We think if we put it up on the hill there in front of the 50th Security Forces Squadron building it should be easily visible as you come on the base.”