By Senior Airman Scott Poe
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Airmen walk through the hallways of an ordinary building as they leave for a deployment. Before their final steps to the aircraft, Airmen pass something rather extraordinary: a monument constructed out of rusted steel.
While it may appear to be just a mass of salvaged metal, in reality it is a symbol of rebirth and redemption. The monument is a representation of what the deploying service members are fighting for or why they joined the military. The nearly 200-pound memorial of rusty iron was once a floor joist above the 74th floor of the World Trade Center.
The metal once stood as physical support. Now, in its new life, it represents adversity and strife that Americans have endured.
Chief Master Sgt. Bubba Beason, the 19th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron superintendent, received orders to deploy in 2009. Before leaving, there was something he wanted to do. Beason wanted a reminder of why he was going. Prior to his departure, Beason visited Hangar 17 at JFK International Airport, where debris from the World Trade Center was stored.
The hangar housed pieces of the World Trade Center and other wreckage from 9/11. There were emergency vehicles that had been crushed by falling debris and mangled subway cars.
“It was almost like going to church; as we walked in, we all just got quiet,” Beason said. “It takes the air out of your lungs as you realize that this is where 3,000 people died. This is where someone went to work on Tuesday morning and didn’t come back. Seeing something like that will change you.”
After processing all the paper work, he was granted release of pieces from the World Trade Center wreckage. Knowing what it meant to him, Beason wanted the metal to be on display as a constant reminder for others. These pieces were then cut up and dispersed among different military installations.
“I realized after receiving the steel, that I need to share it,” he said. “We made 27 coin-shaped pieces for gold-star moms. We also had some delivered to different bases.”
At Little Rock Air Force Base, the monument stands in Building 430, where all deploying Team Little Rock Airmen process.
“We made the base of the monument in the shape of the Pentagon, and then we took the I-beam and stood it straight up and put the metal in the shape of Arkansas on the top,” Beason said. “We also put a mural behind it and lit it up.”
This mural serves as a constant reminder of the sacrifices that were made that day. It reminds all who pass by the effect the events of 9/11 had on the American way of life.
“I don’t know what memories it evokes or what emotions it evokes, but it’s a chapter of our history,” said Beason. “Everybody who steps out the door touches it, looks at it and takes pictures with it, because that’s ultimately what you are going out the door for.”