By Lea Johnson
21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer
CHEYENNE MOUNTAIN AIR FORCE STATION, Colo. — In the days leading up to the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, many shared the story of where they were when they heard the news.
“I was at the Pentagon that morning, but I headed back to my office in Rosslyn (Va.) before the attacks occurred,” said Lt. Gen. Michael Basla, Air Force Space Command vice commander. “I, like many of you, watched on television as those planes went into the World Trade Center, and before I could get back to the Pentagon, I heard it had been struck as well.”
Basla spoke at a ceremony, held Sept. 12 at Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, honoring the men and women who lost their lives in the attacks, during the rescue efforts, and in the defense of the country in the decade since.
The ceremony also served as the unveiling of a 9/11 artifact display designed by a four-person team of University of Colorado-Colorado Springs students with direction from Col. Rusty Wilson, former 721st Mission Support Group commander, and the 721st Civil Engineering Division.
At the center of the display is a beam recovered from the World Trade Center. The beam is one of eight artifacts to be memorialized at each of the military installations in Colorado Springs and around the Colorado Springs area. Don Addy, President of the National Homeland Defense Foundation, secured the artifacts and the foundation, along with other donors, paid to transport the artifacts to Colorado Springs.
Col. Joe Turk, 721st Mission Support Group commander, said at approximately 8:45 a.m. local time, Sept. 11, 2001, the blast doors at CMAFS closed. “However, this was not the nuclear war they had trained for,” he said.
“(Cheyenne Mountain) was a very important installation on that day,” Addy said at the arrival of the beam, Nov. 19, 2010. “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 purpose of the ceremony was to remember not only the fallen heroes, but also the pride in America and the cost of freedom. The initial attacks took the lives of 3,000 people, including the first responders who lost their lives to save their fellow man, Turk said.
In the 10 years following, 6,000 American men and women have given their lives and another 45,000 have been wounded defending the freedom that 9/11 reminded us to appreciate, Basla said.
“From the death and destruction of that tragic day came the rebirth of American pride,” Turk said. “Pride and love of freedom brought together peace-loving nations across the world to defend freedom worldwide. And that pride, love of freedom, and willingness to sacrifice continues today.”
The team of UCCS students were only in middle school when the attacks took place, and 10 years later the team pooled every resource they could think of, including a visit to ground zero, for inspiration.
Surrounding the beam is a globe. “This really was a global event and it really did change the global course of humanity” said Andrew West, UCCS design team leader.
The display is centered on four pillars: We will not falter. We will not tire. We will not waver. We will not fail.
Additionally, the team designed a smaller memorial on the UCCS campus, which points toward Cheyenne Mountain and features the same globe, tying the two artifacts together.
“With the unveiling of the memorial in New York and having this the next day, it’s just the connection to the whole event. It’s amazing to be a part of,” West said.
When the beam arrived at CMAFS in November, Wilson said he hoped the memorial would serve as a reminder to those working inside the mountain on the importance of their work protecting our country.
In his concluding statement, Basla echoed Wilson’s thoughts.
“We remain vigilant because we know that there are still enemies that would seek to do us harm. This memorial will stand as a constant reminder of the determination and unity that 9/11 reignited — brighter and more intense than ever in our American spirit,” he said.