Students to lead 9/11 monument design

By Staff

Now housed in a laboratory at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, an 8-foot-long reminder of one of the most tragic events in U.S. history will be unveiled in a campus ceremony Friday, Oct. 15.

At 12:15 p.m. at El Pomar Center Plaza on the UCCS campus, ownership of the twisted, 750-pound steel beam that once helped support one of the twin towers of New York's World Trade Center will be transferred to Air Force Colonel Russell "Rusty" Wilson of Cheyenne Mountain Air Station by Don Addy, president of the National Homeland Defense Foundation.

UCCS administrative and student leaders will participate in the ceremony and explain the university's role in designing a monument incorporating the beam for permanent display at the Cheyenne Mountain Air Station and a companion piece for the UCCS campus.

For several weeks, a four-person senior engineering student design team has examined the beam, testing its integrity, taking measurements and calculating structures needed to safely support it. The team will work with Peter Gorder, associate professor of engineering, and other students to complete a design for submission to the National Homeland Defense Foundation, which will commission the monument's creation.

"The 9/11 attacks were a defining moment for our country and, in particular, the generation that is currently students at UCCS," Gorder said. "The task the design team will have is to form a larger design committee to engage artists, consultants and many others to help with the creation of something truly monumental."

The skills of mechanical engineers in safely positioning 750 pounds of steel and preserving it from further corrosion are two examples of where engineering expertise is needed. Blending safety and preservation with creativity and design is the essence of entrepreneurship, Gorder said, making the project a perfect capstone project for seniors.

UCCS and area high school students who participate in ROTC programs will form a color guard to present U.S. and Colorado flags and the UCCS Young Republican Club plans to decorate a nearby area known as the West Lawn with 2,977 American flags in memory of those killed in the 9/11 attacks.

Addy secured the beam and contacted UCCS about working with the foundation and Cheyenne Mountain officials to design the monument.

At the event, Gorder will introduce the student design team and call for assistance from the campus as the team begins its work. The beam will remain on campus until November and will be on display in the observation windows of SENG A311. By April, the team hopes to submit final designs for a monument to the foundation, which intends to commission its construction and have it unveiled Sept. 11, 2011.

"This is an incredible opportunity to preserve a piece of our nation's history," Gorder said. "As few campus citizens will have the opportunity to view the Cheyenne Mountain 9/11 Memorial Exhibit once it is installed, my goal, in addition to helping the students create a design of which we are all proud, is to have a companion piece to the Cheyenne Mountain exhibit find a permanent home on our campus."