Paxton man helps build USAF Sept. 11 memorial

Published 2:13 am Saturday, September 10, 2011

When retired U.S. Air Force firefighter Lee Brady held the piece of twisted steel in his hands, he felt he had been given the greatest honor.

After all, the metal was special for many reasons, he said.

“It’s the crowning piece of the Sept. 11 Memorial that stands out front of the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.,” he said. “It came straight from the rubble from the World Trade Center – a place where thousands of Americans, including firefighters, lost their lives.

“When I saw that beam for the first time, it took my breath away,” he said. “It was bent back double and weighed probably 1,000 pounds. I don’t know which building it came from; it didn’t matter. Just to know I was able to put my hands on it – it was amazing.”

Brady, who lives just across the state line in Paxton, Fla., said when he retired as a technical sergeant from Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado, he began a welding fabricating business. He said last month, his best friend and fellow welder, Kevin Garnhart of Elbert, Colo., who is owner of Kevin’s Custom Welding, invited him come to work on the project.

“(Garnhart) got to do portion of the contract to do the handling of the 8-foot beam,” he said. “It was his job to mount it into the granite work. The monument sits on a granite base, which is in the shape of the Pentagon, and there are two side granite pieces, which simulate the Twin Towers. The piece of Sept. 11 steel hangs between them.

“Being asked to work on such an important piece meant so much,” he said. “I’m retired Air Force with 20 years with the Air Force fire department. After I retired, I started my other life building things – welding, fabricating stuff; so, it meant so much to be able to put my hands on this piece of steel. There were 343 firefighters that went in to do the job no one else wanted to do.

“So, for me to be able to help with this job, it meant a lot. It connected back to me on so many ways,” he said. “I said even if I had to walk there from here, I wasn’t going to miss this opportunity.”

According to the Academy’s website, the Sept. 11 memorial was completed Aug. 24, was dedicated Friday and incorporates an actual girder from the World Trade Center.