If this 612-pound, twisted
and burnt piece of steel could talk, imagine the stories
it could tell!
The purpose of a memorial is to
remember a story, to breathe new life into that story
and make it part of our lives.
This memorial started with a teacher
who—like many teachers—wanted to move her students from
merely sitting in a classroom to thinking of themselves
as part of the college—of a university, as active
members of the community and as inspired citizens.
The answer to this challenge came
when the New York-New Jersey Port Authority announced on
September 11, 2009, that it was awarding pieces of steel
recovered from Ground Zero to communities around the
A request was drafted; it was supported and endorsed by
then College of Technology Dean John Cech and
implemented by former Chancellor Ronald Sexton on
January 4th, 2010. We got word a year later.
On February 11 this year, Chancellor Groseth signed the
transfer agreement with the Port Authority.
In May, Fire
Science program director Gary Edwards with his wife,
Vicky, drove over 4,000 miles to New York and back to
I-beam to Billings. They have more stories than the
media could tell about their trek across the
country and how veterans and first responders escorted
the piece solemnly through the city on its arrival
We broke ground on July 15. Bill
Gottwals of our National Advisory Board raised funds for
the project with the Foundation and through community
donations to make sure that NO tax dollars would be
spent on this project.
the summer, Jason McGimpsey led his crew and many
volunteers, like Quentin Eggart, who gave generously of
their time and resources to complete the memorial. In
fact we like to say that this memorial has fingerprints
all over it because of the many, many hands involved in
This is a place for telling
stories—stories about the day itself (9/11), the courage
of first responders, the fragility of human life;
stories about the kindness of strangers, what it means
to be an American, the work of volunteers, how these
16-foot steel towers were built.
In fact, the towers and the stand
that cradles the I-beam were built right here by Bob
Blackwell of our own welding program. Tim Urbaniak, from
our drafting and design faculty, tells us that he
designed the memorial so that any one, everyone (even
children) can touch the I-beam. One has to feel its
cracks, twists, dents and broken studs—and then, look up
to those gleaming, glossy twin towers rising up against the
Of course we have dedicated faculty
(the ones who tend to work long hours) who claim that
you have not seen the memorial in its full glory until
you see it lit up at night with the moon rising behind
There is a story here for everyone.
Veterans, who have returned to
college—thanks to the post-9/11 GI Bill—will have
stories about the coins that are imbedded in the plates
on three sandstone pedestals that will encircle the
memorial. Teachers at the nearby Career Center and our
own faculty have already used the memorial as a
springboard for discussions, for young artists to study
perspective, and for creative and reflective writing
classes; and of course, the 9/11 Oral History Project is
So this is not where the story of
this Memorial ends; this is where the story begins. We
keep the story of 9/11 alive by making it part of our
by commemorating those who were lost,
by knowing our history and the
by dedicating ourselves to the values
of service, compassion, and civic engagement, and
by celebrating our
freedoms—celebrating the opportunities we have to
improve our lives and the lives of those around us.
Today as we commemorate 9/11 here in
Billings, Montana, our community has just grown a little
larger because we join many others who have gathered
around 9/11 memorials in New York; in Shanksville,
Washington D.C. and around the world.
everyone, for coming today to dedicate YOUR 9/11