by Monica Mendoza
21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer
CHEYENNE MOUNTAIN AIR FORCE STATION, Colo. — A steel beam recovered from the World Trade Center arrived at Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station Nov. 19, where it will be built into a memorial to commemorate the people who died Sept. 11, 2001.
About 100 military members and civilians gathered at Cheyenne Mountain AFS for the arrival of the beam, which was released by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to the National Homeland Defense Foundation and then presented to Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station.
A 9/11 memorial, which will include a base for the steel beam, is being designed now by a four-member student team from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and is expected to be officially unveiled at Cheyenne Mountain AFS next September – the 10th anniversary of the attack.
“Albert Einstein observed years ago that the world is a dangerous place – the events of 9/11 really brought that to the forefront for a lot of folks who didn’t realize it,” said Col. Rusty Wilson, 721st Mission Support Group commander on Cheyenne Mountain AFS. “This memorial will remind all of those who work inside the mountain of the importance of their day-to-day work supporting critical strategic missions which protect our nation, North America, and our way of life.
“It is also a tangible reminder to all of us that the world is a dangerous place; there are evil people out there wishing to do us harm. It is our solemn responsibility to honor those that have gone in harm’s way and, in some cases, given all,” he said.
All five military installations in the Colorado Springs area have been given a piece of the World Trade Center to display. There is a memorial at Fort Carson Army installation and one on Peterson Air Force Base, in front of the North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command headquarters building. Memorials at Schriever Air Force Base and the U.S. Air Force Academy are also underway.
“It’s been very touching to me personally to see the respect and reverence that has been demonstrated by the people in our community and by the military installations,” said Don Addy, president and CEO of the National Homeland Defense Foundation. Through the foundation, Mr. Addy worked to secure the five pieces from the World Trade Center. The foundation and other donors paid for the transport of the pieces to Colorado Springs.
“(Cheyenne Mountain) was a very important installation on that day,” Mr. Addy said. “To have a piece of that (WTC) building now here on exhibit to remind the people who work here of the importance of this facility, to me, is very gratifying.”
The 721st Civil Engineer Division is working with the UCCS students on the guidelines for the memorial, but Colonel Wilson said he wanted the students to be as creative as possible in the design, said Tyler Nielsen, 721 CED engineer.
The four-person design team is already working on ideas, said Andrew West, UCCS student design team leader. The college seniors were in middle school when al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four commercial airplanes and flew two into the Twin Towers World Trade Center and one into the U.S. Pentagon killing about 3,000 people. The fourth plane crashed in rural Pennsylvania.
“The biggest appeal for all of us is the creativity involved in a project like this,” Mr. West said. “The biggest thing we want to incorporate is the sentiment behind the piece and what this represents.”
The rusted steel beam already is steeped in emotion, said Bill Barbuto, a retired fire chief with the New York City Fire Department, who attended the arrival ceremony. He was already retired and had moved out of New York when the Twin Towers were attacked.
He flew in one week later “to attend funerals, that is what I did, went from one to the other,” he said.
It was emotional for Mr. Barbuto, who recently moved to Colorado Springs, to see the beam roll up at Cheyenne Mountain, he said.
“A lot of my friends died,” he said. “It was an incredible event in history, not one to be repeated, I hope.”