‘You’re on the front line’: Dozens of first responders among Freedom Park crowd gathered to remember 9/11 | VailDaily.com

‘You’re on the front line’: Dozens of first responders among Freedom Park crowd gathered to remember 9/11

EDWARDS — Tuesday, Sept. 11, was a day to remember.

"When I was a young boy, I wanted to grow up and become a cowboy or a pilot," U.S. Army and Vietnam veteran Capt. Pete Thompson told dozens of first responders during a memorial ceremony in Freedom Park. "Those were the heroic figures of our culture in the 1950s.

"Today is 9/11 in the year 2018 and I'm 74 years of age. The world and our culture has changed a lot. If I was a little boy today, I would want to be what I'm looking at. You. The first responders of America. You. The firefighters, the police officers, the paramedics, state troopers. You are the combat front line of our society, because of 9/11, because of Hurricane Katrina, because of the Lake Christine fire. You're on the front line every day.

"May God bless and protect you and protect our wonderful society."

Pentagon limestone piece B0045

Buddy Sims was in full uniform, explaining how a 22,000-pound pyramid came to be holding a 700-pound block of Indiana limestone, all part of a memorial designed by local architect Tab Bonidy.

Recommended Stories For You

After 9/11, a couple dozen members of the local VFW Post met in Bob's restaurant in Avon, asking, "What can we do to help America?" That's not a rhetorical question for these people.

Buddy Sims, a decorated bomber pilot from the Vietnam era, went back on active duty. He was stationed in Saudi Arabia, where he helped plan and execute Operation Desert Storm.

When he was stateside, he was assigned to the Pentagon, where then-County Commissioners Tom Stone, Michael Gallagher and Arn Menconi came for a visit. During a tour of the five-sided building, Sims pointed out a pile of 100 limestone rocks behind a barbed wire fence.

Every piece of Indiana limestone used to build the Pentagon is numbered. The piece in Eagle County's Freedom Park is B0045.

Buddy Sims suggested that Eagle County should build a memorial with one of those pieces of Pentagon limestone. That was all it took for the commissioners to run with the idea.

"I was honored to be part of the process and name the park, as well," Stone said Tuesday.

In fact, the commissioners rented the Penske truck Buddy and Bonnie Sims drove to haul B0045 from the Pentagon to Eagle County.

Buddy and Bonnie Sims arrived at the Pentagon about the time a snowstorm did, which shut down the entire city. So they waited a day.

The next day, they wanted to use a forklift to lift the 700-pound piece of limestone into their Penske truck. The forklift was just sitting there, but of course, this was Washington, D.C., and no one had the spine to act independently and give them permission to fire it up.

Buddy Sims still had all kinds of generals, colonels and Congressmen on speed dial, and started working the phone.

"Several sergeants and a general showed up," said Buddy Sims, who added that it would not be enough to lift it.

Several eager young Congressional staffers showed up to help, dressed in business attire — nice dresses, cashmere and fur coats, heels and suits.

"About 20 of us took ahold of that piece of limestone and lifted it into the truck," Sims said.

By the way, it took eight months to build the Pentagon in 1943.

When Buddy and Bonnie Sims crested Vail Pass on their way home, dozens of first responders met them to escort them home.

"After Flight 77 hit the Pentagon, they went back to the quarry in Indiana where the limestone originally came from and asked them to make more. They were happy to. They made thousands more," Sims said.

War and peace

War and peace are sometimes woven from the same tapestry. As Buddy Sims was speaking, a few radios carried by firefighters blared. The engines and sirens wound up, and they were on their way. They did not know where, they just knew that the call went, and they would answer it.

After taps played and the ceremony was concluding, Rev. Michael Carlton from Calvary Chapel bowed his head along with the crowd of warriors and prayed for peace.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.