Students present state with 9/11 plaque
September 12, 2004
CHEYENNE, Wyo. - A bronze plaque containing a section of a support beam pulled from the rubble of the World Trade Center was unveiled Saturday on the steps of the State Capitol to mark the third anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.
High school students from around the state raised $2,400 to pay for cutting the section, casting the World Trade Center Steel Memorial and shipping it to Wyoming to commemorate more than 3,000 Americans killed in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C., during the 2001 assault.
"It changed our world. It changed our lives," Isaiah Spigner of Cheyenne, president of the Wyoming Association of Student Councils, told about 200 people gathered in front of the Capitol on a brilliantly sunny morning.
"We know now that our country is vulnerable to terrorists," he said. "We are proud to be Americans and will support and defend our country against these groups. Today we present to the state of Wyoming a plaque commemorating the sacrifices made by Americans on that historic day."
The crowd joined in the Pledge of Allegiance, and the Cheyenne East High band played "The Star-Spangled Banner." Sarah Pheasant of Kaycee High School and Lili Sccantling of Buffalo High School played taps.
The square section of steel came from the 65th floor of one of the towers. It sits on the left side of the 3-foot-by-4-foot memorial, with a bronze depiction of the twin towers on the right and an inscription in the center detailing events of the attacks.
After the plaque was unveiled, the crowd climbed the steps to take a closer look.
"One of the things that struck me was at the end of the ceremony, the way people reverently went up and touched a portion of the beam," Gov. Dave Freudenthal said. "It was entirely unexpected and very moving to watch."
He also marveled at the poise and organizing efforts of the student leaders.
"The event is particularly moving because it is one that is put together by the generation that will most have to deal with the consequences of 9/11, and I'm incredibly impressed by the young people of Wyoming who put this together on their own initiative," Freudenthal said.
The plaque will be placed in the Capitol rotunda but will also travel the state from time to time.
Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., commended the students for becoming the first group to collect enough donations to present a 9/11 steel memorial to their state.
"We are a state of firsts, and this will be another nice one to add to the list," he said.
Enzi said Sept. 11 is "a day of remembrance and a day of tragedy for the United States, and a day when American patriotism and faith rose up out of the ashes of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, the field in Pennsylvania."
Lt. Scott Morson, a member of the Cheyenne Fire and Rescue Department, watched the ceremony with several colleagues.
"We'd just like to thank everybody for showing up, for caring and most important for everybody remembering," he said.
Brynn Elliott of Newcastle, former secretary of the student group, said in June 2003, Wyoming students attending a national conference in New York learned of efforts to place plaques in each of the 50 capitols. The idea came from students in Oak Ridge, Tenn.
Freudenthal and the other state elected officials encouraged the association to pursue the project, and fund-raising took place from January to June of this year.
Twenty-one high schools took part: Evanston, Ten Sleep, Rock Springs, Kaycee, Cheyenne East, Star Valley, Lovell, Lyman, Kemmerer, Riverside, Rocky Mountain, Big Horn, Buffalo, Newcastle, Douglas, Glenrock, Worland, Rawlins, Natrona County, Kelly Walsh and Lingle-Fort Laramie.