Off the Hill with Tricia Swenson: Freedom Park Memorial pays tribute to 9/11, America
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If you are old enough to remember, then you know exactly where you were when you learned about the Twin Towers being hit. September 11, 2001, went down as the deadliest attack on American soil since Pearl Harbor, killing nearly 3,000 people and injuring over 6,000 others.
As we approach the 15th anniversary of 9/11, many wonder what they can do or where they can go to honor their country and the lives lost. There are many service days planned at various schools and communities across the United States. Locally, the Vail Police Department will host veterans at its 50th anniversary community picnic with the Mounted Color Guard from Fort Carson opening the event on Sunday.
But did you realize that we have a 9/11 memorial right here in Eagle County?
Many refer to the large pond and land surrounding it between Colorado Mountain College and the WECMRD building in Edwards as the dog park. But on the west end of that pond at Freedom Park sits a 600-pound piece of limestone from the Pentagon’s west wall. This fragment was part of the damage and rubble of the 9/11 attacks from American Airlines Flight 77. It is one of approximately 100 pieces of limestone that were saved for memorials across America, and the only piece in Colorado.
The piece that made it to Edwards didn’t get here easily. In today’s video, Buddy Sims, retired Lt. Col. of the U.S. Air Force, recounts the story from its genesis to fruition. Snowstorms, lack of equipment, security clearances and lots of red tape almost prevented this historical piece from being delivered to Eagle County. But with the help of active duty officers, government contractors, military retirees and Congressional staffers, they braved the snowstorm and loaded it up in Washington, D.C.
That limestone became the centerpiece for the Freedom Park Memorial thanks to its committee, the Minturn VFW Post 10721 and 17 local contractors who donated time and materials. It took some creativity and ingenuity to figure out how to display it. Most remarkable is the 22,000-pound concrete pyramid and metal arm designed by Tab Bonidy, of Tab Associates Inc., that holds the limestone 10 feet in the air.
The Freedom Park Memorial not only commemorates 9/11, but also honors fallen veterans, police and emergency personnel from Eagle County. The story behind this historical piece of stone and the beauty of the memorial may provide some solace on this difficult day.