BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -- An I-beam that was once a part of the World Trade Center now has a home in Afghanistan where the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks were first planned.
Soldiers from the 612th Quarter Master Detachment sling-loaded the beam along, with a U.S. flag to the aircraft, which was then piloted by aviation troops from Task Force Falcon. Several troops who were first responders to the attacks on the World Trade Center accompanied the TF Falcon troops on the half-hour flight.
The U.S. flag that flew with the beam, along with another displayed from the back hatch of the helicopter, will be given as a token of appreciation to the residents of Breezy Point, N.Y., who shipped the beam at a cost of approximately $5,000.
Sgt. Timothy Nast, a sling-load noncommissioned officer in charge in the 612th, said he was delighted to support the mission. "When my chief brought it to my attention, I of course said, 'yes, I'll take the mission. It's a part of history, and not just that-it lets all of us that are here remember what we're here fighting for," Nast said. "We will never forget 9/11, so it was an honor for me and my Soldiers to be part of this."
Residents of Breezy Point donated the beam through an organization called 'Sons and Daughters of America, Breezy Point.' the City of New York had given a number of beams to the residents of Breezy Point after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that killed 29 residents from the small neighborhood in Queens.
After the residents erected a permanent monument facing Manhattan, Sons and Daughters of America donated the remaining three beams to the U.S. military. One is at the recently opened infantry museum at Fort Benning, Ga., and the other is aboard the aircraft carrier, U.S.S. Nimitz, along with U.S. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Brian Quinn Jr., whose father was instrumental in organizing Sons and Daughters of America.
The plan to send the third beam to Bagram was conceived around Memorial Day last year, but due to complications, the beam didn't arrive in Bagram until March 12, said Maj. Stephen J. Ryan, a governance planner for Combined Joint Task Force-82, who is also from Breezy Point.
Ryan, who responded to the attacks as an off-duty police officer and was activated for three months with the New York National Guard in recovery efforts, said the display of the third beam in Afghanistan is "a fitting tribute."
"They felt it just as fitting to send at least one (beam) to Afghanistan where the war began, where the attack on 9/11 was conceived, planned and eventually carried out in the attack against the Pentagon, the World Trade Center, and the plane that went down in Shanksville, Pennsylvania," Ryan said.
Lt. Col. Jeff Cantor, team chief of the special issues team, Stability Operations, CJTF-82, who also assisted in the recovery efforts at the site of the World Trade Center Attacks, said he took the experience personally.
"To me it's very important that I salute them for what they did on 9/11," said Cantor, a resident of Marlboro, N.J. "And now I'm here (in Afghanistan) to show my support and hopefully we'll have the unveiling right here and that piece of history will live on forever."
Cantor said the beam will soon be put on display in front of the CJTF-82 command center in Bagram along with a stone engraving, also donated by the organization, dedicating the beam to the armed services of the United States and reminding them never to forget the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
A ceremony for the beam's arrival at the CJTF 82 command center is tentatively scheduled for the first half of April.
In accordance with the organization's vision, the beam will remain at Bagram as long as U.S. troops are deployed to Afghanistan, Cantor said. After that, it will most likely end up in a museum at Fort Bragg, N.C., similar to the beam at Fort Benning.
"I think this is going to be very symbolic to show our response and how we responded to the attacks and how we're helping the people of Afghanistan," said Maj. Lisandro Murphy of Middle Village, N.Y., another Sept. 11, 2001, responder who now works as information operations planner with CJTF-82 future operations.
Ryan, who had been working with Sons and Daughters, said the date of the flight was not significant, but that it was long in coming. "I just want, again, to thank the residents of Breezy Point, New York. I know they probably got impatient with me because this was a long time coming," he said. "It's been more than a year since the time they envisioned this project... but it's finally gotten to its destination."