Updated: June 17, 2010 at 12:00 am
Sitting near a World Trade Center memorial that will be unveiled at Fort Carson on Saturday, Army Capt. Patrick Dowdell recounts the events of Sept. 11, 2001, in a slow, steady voice.
It was the day his father, former New York City Fire Lt. Kevin Dowdell, was swallowed alive while rushing into the Twin Towers with his crew from Rescue 4 in Queens.
Patrick Dowdell, 27, pushed to be admitted to the Military Academy at Westpoint, N.Y., in the wake of the tragedy. He said he admires the memorial’s quiet power: the way a simple piece of rusted steel can summon the heat and force of a day that altered the nation’s history, just as it changed his life.
“It’ll serve as a reminder for why we’re here,” he says.
The memorial — erected near the post’s main gate — is among several 9/11 tributes that are planned for military installations along the Front Range, each designed around steel salvaged from the World Trade Center and stored for posterity by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
Don Addy, president of the Colorado Springs nonprofit National Homeland Defense Foundation, obtained the relics and arranged for their transportation to Colorado.
Fort Carson’s features a twisted 17-foot-long I-beam. Two juniper trees stand in the backdrop, representing the Twin Towers, and a plaque honors the nearly 3,000 people who were killed.
Patrick Dowdell’s story will be at the center of Fort Carson’s unveiling ceremony at 10 a.m.Saturday. New York Fire Capt. Liam Flaherty — a family friend — will be a guest speaker, and The New York Fire Department Emerald Society of Pipes and Drums will perform a tribute.
The audience will include Kevin Dowdell’s mother, Rose Ellen Dowdell, and his younger brother, James Dowdell, who joined the New York Fire Department after 9/11.
Kevin Dowdell, 47, grew up in the Bronx and began his working life as a “sandhog,” digging tunnels for public works projects, and spent a year as a New York City police officer.
He joined the Fire Department as soon as they would have him.
His 22-year career included a call to the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993, and a stint on a Federal Emergency Management Agency search and rescue team after the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.
Kevin Dowdell was awarded a departmental honor after 1994 explosion at a diner in Queens. He stripped off his safety gear and crawled into a narrow tunnel to save a trapped woman.
“We knew what he was doing was dangerous,” Patrick Dowdell said. “I just thought that he was the best at his job and he would be OK.”
Kevin Dowdell was last seen outside the World Trade Center, lining up his men and delivering their instructions. The family believes he was among those who died during rescue efforts inside the South Tower.
Patrick Dowdell, who was 18 at the time, volunteered at Ground Zero in the days after the attacks and worked on his application to West Point. He was admitted to the elite military academy the following year, and graduated in 2006.
Firefighters on his father’s crew sent care packages for Patrick Dowdell’s platoon during his first tour, in Iraq, and welcomed him home by inviting him to march with them in New York’s St. Patrick’s Day parade.
Now a field artillery officer with in the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Patrick Dowdell will deploy to Afghanistan next month. He arranged to have a 400-pound piece of World Trade Center steel shipped to Afghanistan, where it will be installed outside his battalion’s headquarters.
“It’s for all those who have served and sacrificed so much since the War on Terrorism started,” he said.
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