By Airman 1st Class Dennis Hoffman
21st Space Wing Public Affairs
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — Sculptures of twisted iron beams are proudly displayed outside of the North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command headquarters at Peterson Air Force Base, next to Gate 1 on Fort Carson, in front of the iconic Academy Chapel at the U.S. Air Force Academy and sitting just outside of the entrance to the Cheyenne Mountain Complex tunnel. These memorials commemorate lives lost and help Americans remember the impact the United States felt on Sept. 11, 2001.
With the remembrance of the World Trade Center Towers hitting 15 years, many service members today are too young to remember firsthand the devastation that occurred on that fateful day.
In an effort to celebrate the lives lost and educate younger Soldiers and Airmen on the effect Sept. 11 had on citizens and service members, Don Addy, The National Homeland Defense Foundation president, formally requested pieces from ground zero be donated to Colorado Springs military installations Nov. 21, 2009.
It was after a visit to the Tribute WTC 9/11 Visitor Center that Addy came across meaningful information from Lee Ielpi, Tribute WTC 9/11 Visitor Center executive director, during an emotionally moving experience seeing all the artifacts collected and exhibited there, he said.
“Lee told me that the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, owners of the World Trade Center buildings and property, had salvaged tons of steel from the former towers,” said Addy. “(They) had recently announced that they would grant ownership of articles from their inventory to anyone making a formal request for the purpose of building a memorial to the victims of September 11. This sparked my idea to request artifacts for Colorado Springs.”
Armed with the blessings leadership from local military installations gave him, Addy moved forward with his proposal, which was approved.
The following January, Addy traveled to New York to begin the process of shipping the artifacts to their new homes in Colorado. While he was there, he met with Firemen from the New York City Fire Department, he said.
“They took me to Hangar 17 at JFK Airport where all of the remaining recovered World Trade Center artifacts resided,” said Addy. “I selected and tagged 5 pieces for shipment to Colorado Springs. Artifacts were originally reserved for Fort Carson, Peterson AFB, Schriever AFB and the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, and Buckley AFB in Denver.”
As the artifacts found their way to their respective homes, the welcoming reception differed, but was comparable at the same time. Each resting place held touching ceremonies to acknowledge the symbolism behind the artifact and the importance it represented, especially to those in uniform.
The piece originally intended for Buckley AFB transitioned to a new home atop Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, where it has remained since 2011.
Firm reminders and stunning visual representations of the tragedies that took place on that fateful September day only add to the commitment service members have toward keeping our nation safe from domestic and foreign threats.