World Trade Center I-Beam Caps New Kennedy Space Center Memorial
By Anna Heiney, NASA.gov // September 18, 2015
i-beam salvaged from ruins of world trade Center
BREVARD COUNTY • KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FLORIDA – A heavy piece of American history is the somber centerpiece of a new, permanent Sept. 11 memorial at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The one-ton section of solid steel I-beam salvaged from the ruins of the World Trade Center in New York City now rests atop twin concrete pedestals at the spaceport’s Fire Station No. 1.
It was dedicated during a ceremony on the 14th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, which claimed the lives of nearly 3,000 people. Of those, 343 were fire-rescue personnel.
“Each and every one of us has vivid memories of Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001. Looking back on the life-changing events of that day – and the days that followed – evokes a variety of emotions within all of us,” said Lt. James Dumont of KSC Fire Rescue.
“Our own feelings and memories are personal, but we are unified by a shared sense of honor, respect and remembrance,” he added.
The beam arrived at Kennedy in August after a two-day journey that began at JFK International Airport in New York. A five-person Artifact Escort Team from Kennedy Space Center’s Fire Rescue traveled along with it to ensure its safe arrival at the Florida spaceport. The memorial remained draped until its ceremonial unveiling.
Dumont explained the symbolism behind each element of the memorial.
“The flagpole serves as a reminder of our nation’s enduring commitments to freedom, justice and liberty. The shield recalls the 343 fire rescue personnel who made the ultimate sacrifice, giving their lives trying to spare the lives of others,” Dumont said.
“The twin concrete bases represent the twin towers of the World Trade Center, and of course, those form the foundation for the memorial’s centerpiece: a steel beam from the World Trade Center.”
Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001, began like any other day, said the center’s Associate Director Kelvin Manning. But that changed as the tragedy unfolded and employees followed the events on the news.
“Physically, we were still in Florida, but emotionally, we were there. We were aboard the planes; we were New Yorkers; we were in the Pentagon; and we were there in Shanksville, Pennsylvania,” Manning said, pointing out that many wondered whether the space center might be a target as well.
The space shuttle orbiters were powered down, critical systems and facilities were secured, and most of the workforce was sent home, he recalled. But Kennedy’s firefighters and security officers remained on center for protection and, if necessary, emergency response.
The steel beam’s presence at Kennedy is the result of a four-year effort. Kennedy’s Fire Rescue Services worked closely with NASA leadership, including Center Director Bob Cabana, the Transport Workers Union of America and the Port Authority of New York.
Even after the team received word that Kennedy had been awarded a piece, another issue remained – transporting it from New York to Florida. American Airlines’ cargo team custom-built a wooden travel container to hold the beam during the trip.
The Artifact Escort Team finally saw the beam in person in New York. Labeled G-0063, the 7-foot-long piece now belongs to the Transport Workers Union Local 525.
“I had seen a photo of it in an email. We saw it in person for the first time on Aug. 12. It was a very solemn moment on the tarmac at JFK International Airport,” recalled Fire Chief Richard Anderson of the Centerra Group.
“It was silent. You could hear the wind whipping through there, but no one was speaking,” he said.
The journey took them from New York to Philadelphia, then to Miami. At that point the container was placed in Dumont’s pickup truck for the drive to the space center.
Fire-rescue personnel from communities along the way lined roadways and overpasses in a show of respect as the caravan made its way north. Brevard County Sheriff’s Office provided an escort for the final leg of the journey across the Space Coast.
“When Kevin first called and asked us if we could do the escort for the artifact as it was being brought in, we said, ‘absolutely,’” said Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey.
“I don’t think any of us had an idea, at that point, just how big it was going to be, as things started to unfold.”
At the start of the journey, the team didn’t realize the life-changing impact the trip would have on each of them, explained Kevin Smith, president of TWU Local 525.
“Along the way we witnessed those still in mourning, and also those who used this as a chance to celebrate the lives of those who made the ultimate sacrifice on that fateful September day,” Smith said. “We returned home forever changed.”
A sense of brotherhood with the heroes of Sept. 11 extends beyond the fire services community, Anderson said, including the men and women of law enforcement, the military, the Port Authority and more.
“It’s in our blood to want to help people,” Anderson said. “Going in when people are running out – that’s what we’re made to do.”
The lessons of Sept. 11 extend to NASA and Kennedy Space Center.
“Our country’s first responders are heroes, like our astronauts, because every time they suit up, they put on their uniform to go out on their mission, they accept the fact that their life could be put at risk,” Manning said.
As years pass, less of the workforce has a personal connection or memory of the events of Sept. 11, but it’s important to remain vigilant – and to be inspired by the dedication of those who have given their lives so others may live.
“The memorial will be a daily reminder,” said Anderson. “We don’t want anybody to forget their sacrifice.”
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