KINGS POINT, N.Y., July 14, 2016 – New York City provides a fitting backdrop for the new 9/11 memorial, which was recently installed at the United States Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA). The structure, which was designed and built by Ensign Benjamin Hladick, USNR, Class of 2016, incorporates a piece of steel girder from the World Trade Center.
After the attacks of 2011, steel beams from the World Trade Center were distributed throughout the country to families of the victims and for memorials at schools, fire houses, government buildings and other locations. The two-foot, 200 lb. piece of steel that is encased in the memorial was obtained through the devoted efforts of the Class of 2012.
Hladick, who has been a welder since high school, explained, “the initial intention was to simply mount it on a piece of steel with a plaque. After seeing the piece of metal, my imagination started to run, and I used AutoCAD to design a representation of what I imagined being a worthy memorial. After pitching the idea to Admiral Helis and Captain Kennedy, I was given the green light to request material through the welding shop with the assistance of Mr. Kass and Mr. Jaeger.”
He went on to say, “This project was so important to me first and foremost because of what it represents. Everybody remembers where they were on that fateful day, 9/11. Being from Alaska, and to be able to design and construct something that represents that day for the Academy is truly humbling. I am so very grateful to be able to give back to the Academy in some way. I could not think of a better way than doing something I love, welding.”
“The Academy is honored to have this unique memorial that pays tribute those who were lost on September 11th,” said Rear Adm. James A. Helis, USMS. “It also honors to our midshipmen, faculty, staff and graduates who responded on that tragic day in our Nation’s history.”
Former Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta recognized the civilian merchant mariners who assisted in the evacuation and rescue efforts at Ground Zero at a 2005 ceremony at the World Financial Center in New York City. As part of the program, Secretary Mineta made special note of the 180 Academy faculty, staff and midshipmen who took part in the relief efforts. USMMA was presented with the Department of Transportation's Outstanding Unit Award. The award is on permanent display in the in the Astronaut Elliot M. See Room, located in Wiley Hall.
“I would like to thank Admiral Helis for believing I could do the project,” said Hladick. He also thanked Karel Machalek who taught him welding before coming to the Academy, welding instructors Joseph Kass and John Jaeger, and classmate Alec Deryckere ’16 for helping him realize the project, and Paul Buhse of the Department of Public Works who had the memorial installed before he and the Class of 2016 graduated.
By Veronica Cassidy Barry