Kevin Baylor, project manager, Fort Campbell Emergency Communications Center, has a ritual for every time he walks by the 9/11 monument at Fire Station 1, and he’s upheld it for nearly 10 years.
“I go and touch that piece of steel, and then I tap the flagpole and look up at the flag,” said Baylor, who served as Fort Campbell Fire and Emergency Services chief when the monument was dedicated in 2012. “We as a society have short memories, but I remember where I was 20 years ago, and I think we all have to remember the sacrifices that were made on 9/11.”
Fire Station 1’s memorial remains one of the installation’s most visible tributes to those who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks Sept. 11, 2001, and it incorporates a steel beam recovered from the wreckage at Ground Zero.
“When our younger firefighters see that monument, we hope they take away the significance of the sacrifices the first responders made that day, and to know in their being and attitudes that they’d do the same,” said Joseph Baker, former assistant chief of fire prevention, FCFES. “Those guys out there at Fort Campbell would have done the same thing as those firefighters who were going up the stairs in those towers. It’s like we always say: ‘Always remember, never forget.’”
David Land, assistant chief of fire prevention, FCFES, is among those drawing continued inspiration from the monument. Ten years ago, he worked with Baker to bring it onto Fort Campbell after reading about other installations’ similar displays.
“I just thought it would be a nice memorial,” said Land, who worked as a fire inspector on post at the time. “A lot of firefighters were among the people who lost their lives that day, and we thought it’d be something neat to have for the fire station so that we can always look at it and never forget what happened.”
To obtain the monument’s steel, FCFES sent an application outlining their vision to the National Homeland Defense Foundation, or NHDF, a nonprofit organization focused on promoting homeland security.
NDHF President Don Addy had previously worked with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to distribute the agency’s recovered 9/11 artifacts for public display, and in 2010 he requested the steel that eventually found a home at Fort Campbell.
“We were excited to receive it, and we knew we were probably in competition with a lot of people because the 10th anniversary of 9/11 was right around the corner,” Baker said. “I think the way we were going to present and display it had a big impact on us getting approval, along with it being at the home of the 101st Airborne Division and all the tenant units because they were the first ones out the door after the attacks.”
According to email correspondence from Addy, the artifact previously belonged to the New York Fire Department, or FDNY, which lost 343 firefighters on 9/11.
“The Port Authority gave it to a firefighter in Brooklyn [James Dowdell] whose dad was assigned to Rescue 1 and was killed on 9/11,” Land said. “When we got the artifact, it meant that much more to us because it came from another fire department, which gave it additional significance.”
Benjamine Peetz, deputy chief, FCFES, said Dowdell worked with Fort Campbell throughout the donation process. The installation received the steel in January 2011 and dedicated the monument on May 24, 2012, after gaining approval for the project and finishing the build.
“We were able to pick specific granite, so the granite used in the monument comes out of Pennsylvania,” Baker said. “The importance of that was because United Airlines Flight 93 went down in Pennsylvania, and that piece of granite was quarried only about 100 miles from where the plane crashed.”
FCFES also had the number 343 inscribed on the granite, signifying the monument’s ties to FDNY and firefighters from across the U.S. Many of those agencies turned out to support Fort Campbell during the dedication ceremony.
“Being able to invite the outside communities and other fire departments to the dedication made things much nicer,” Land said. “It felt great to see it finally done and finished, because it was a long road with a lot of ups and downs.”
In the years to come, Baker said he hopes the monument will continue inspiring Fort Campbell’s firefighters to carry the same values as those who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001.
“My son’s a firefighter out there at Fort Campbell now and when he comes up to Station 1, he can look at that monument and know the significance,” Baker said. “But we’ve got kids coming up in the fire service who were only 1 year old when this all happened. We have to stress the significance of what those firefighters did on 9/11, and we have to [remember] their contributions. They might be sad ones, but they ensure that we continue on the legacy of firefighting, saving people and honoring those who lost their lives.”