Honor First Responders With Sculpture
September 16, 2011
By Justyna Kruk
The Village of Oak Lawn unveiled its First Responders Monument during a dedication ceremony Sunday morning at the Metra Station.
Hundreds of residents joined state and village officials to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11 by remembering those who lost their lives in the attack as well as the many first responders who offered their help in the days that followed.
The ceremony began with a rendition of “God Bless America” by the Oak Lawn Community High School marching band followed by the posting of colors by members of the Oak Lawn Fire and Police departments.
Attendees were treated to a performance of “The Star Spangled Banner” by Jim Cornelison, who later sang at the Bears’ home opener.
After a long moment of silence, Mayor Dave Heilmann spoke of the chilling phone calls the 9/11 victims made to their families, and urged everyone to live their lives in a way that would honor their memories.
“If those people were to say to any one of us, ‘the words I‘d like to leave with you about how you should treat others and how you should live your life are…,’ you fill it in,” he challenged. “You fill it in and I assure you that if you live life by those words that you just heard you will honor them in the best possible manner because you will give their lives more meaning.”
Cong. Dan Lipinski (D-3rd) was also on hand for the ceremony to offer his personal thanks to America’s first responders and armed forces, but he reminded attendees to come together as Americans in defense of the freedom that was lost on that dreadful morning.
“We have been that shining city on the hill; that beacon for others all around the world who long for freedom and who don’t have freedom. That’s why we were attacked 10 years ago,” he said.
“They wanted to destroy that light, put it out, but they didn’t succeed because Americans unified. And today we do the same.”
Artist Eric Blome was selected for the job, and, in six months and with the help of local welders, transformed the massive remnants into masterpieces that will serve as proof of the resilience of the American spirit that Lipinski referenced.
“The process of bringing metal back together has a unique magic about it that artists like me sometimes see as a metaphor for life. As you push forward, things have a way of coming together,” said Blome. “They have a way of working in harmony as a unity even if you feel they aren’t as you go.”
This faith and determination, Blome said, remind him of his time in Oak Lawn and of the passion and commitment shown by its residents.
“I have worked with many communities and have never encountered one as committed as this one to a project,” he added.
As the ceremony drew to an end, Dr. Sandra Bury, chairperson of the committee to erect the monument, offered words of gratitude to the people and organizations that helped make the dream of a first responder monument a reality.
“I wish all of you had the privilege and honor that I had working with our wonderful businesses, neighbors, first responders…never in my life have I experienced the power of people who believe in something bigger than themselves in this way,” said Bury.
The Oak Lawn Rotary Club sponsored the project as a way to celebrate its 50th anniversary as an organization, but the idea for the monument initially came from Oak Lawn Police Lt. Art Clark, who is currently serving a tour of duty in Afghanistan.
After finding out that the New York and New Jersey Port Authority was giving away pieces of the World Trade Center, he spearheaded the plan that eventually brought four steel beams totaling 40,000 pounds to Oak Lawn.
At the time, Clark mentioned he wanted the monument to honor the people who died as well as the first responders and other hometown heroes who made great sacrifices to offer their help.
“People came down to the pile just to help the first responders, everyone came together to do something good — and I think that’s an important lesson for the people of Oak Lawn,” he stated.
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