The North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command commemorated a new 9/11 memorial during a ceremony at the commands' headquarters May 18.
The memorial, featuring a steel beam recovered from the World Trade Center donated by the National Homeland Defense Foundation, stands near the entrance of the NORAD and U.S. NORTHCOM headquarters building.
Gen. Gene Renuart, NORAD and U.S. NORTHCOM commander, said the memorial provides everyone who sees it a moment to reflect on why they serve.
"This memorial allows us to spend a minute or two as we're walking to work, passing by on the street, or when we're in a hurry to somewhere to perform our duty every day to pause and reflect for a second that freedom isn't free," General Renuart said. "And that there are those out there who would challenge and try to take away our freedom if we're not vigilant. We are the land of the free because of the brave, and that is what this memorial is all about."
Don Addy, president and CEO of the National Homeland Defense Foundation, said people who view the memorial shouldn't just remember the fallen, but how the nation came together in the aftermath.
"Remember the stories of strangers coming together in far off places like Nova Scotia and Dodge City, Kansas," he urged. "Remember the windows full of candles, over thousands and thousands of homes across America. These are the memories of who we are, and who we are as a people and a nation. We must remember those things as well."
The memorial is comprised of three parts: The recovered steel beam pays respect to the lives lost in New York and points in the city's direction. The five-sided planter honors those who died at the Pentagon, and the soil in the planter comes from Pennsylvania to pay respect to the people who died on Flight 93, which crashed in Shanksville, Pa.
The 21st Civil Engineer Squadron helped with the memorial design and construction.
The memorial not only honors those who died on 9/11, General Renuart said, but also those who've died serving their country since then.
"They felt strongly enough about their commitment to their country and the freedoms in this world to say 'I'll go,'" General Renuart said. "Friends, brothers and sisters, husbands and wives, sons and daughters have all made that commitment."
General Renuart said the memorial is appropriate given that U.S. NORTHCOM was created as a result of the attacks.
"Our command was born of these events," he said. "U.S. Northern Command became reality because of these events. And the marriage of NORAD, which has now been in place for 52 years, and NORTHCOM has been such a strong and positive relationship for our nation because we are vigilant, we look for those threats, we anticipate what may happen, and we put plans in place to prepare for, prevent and then respond if we must. So these commands really are about the emotions and the strength of our nation which are symbolized by this memorial."
Though the events of 9/11 were terrible, and the memorial was designed to remember that day in particular, General Renuart said it also serves as a symbol of hope.
"Certainly it's a symbol of tragedy," he said. "It's a symbol of loss, but as you can see it also points to the heavens. It's a symbol of anticipation, of enthusiasm, of commitment, of hope for the nation and for the future."