Among the most heart-breaking stories I heard about the 9/11 attacks were those of the first responders, many of whom had just left their overnight shifts only to return because they knew they had to help. They bravely walked in those burning buildings and saved countless lives, only to lose their own.
There were many families that lost two or more members because their families had a long history of public service. Young men who grew up watching their fathers and grandfathers put on a uniform every morning wanted to follow in those footsteps. They wanted to be heroes like the men they looked up to, only to become a hero in the truest sense of the word themselves.
Many of those who survived are still displaying heroism as noted by a comment in my 9/11 posting from Traveling Wife. They are fighting illnesses caused by the toxic material they breathed in for many months as they dug through the rubble looking for the bodies of their brothers in uniform. Every one would likely say that they would do it again. That’s the attitude of a hero.
Like many communities across the country, the suburb where we live was able to obtain beams, three of them, from the World Trade Center. They decided to use the beams to build a memorial dedicated to those first responders who lost their lives. I thought it was a wonderful idea. It not only acknowledges those who died that day, but also recognizes the men and women in our own community who put on a uniform every morning, not knowing the dangers they may face that day.
Renowned sculptor Erik Blome, a Chicago-area native who has sculpted many of the more recognizable sculptures in the Chicago area as well as pieces all across the country, was tapped to design and make this particular piece. It was unveiled in a dedication ceremony held on 9/11.
It was a moving ceremony that I was glad I was able to attend. Especially moving was the singing of the National Anthem by Jim Cornelison. Cornelison is another Chicago staple who opens every home-ice Blackhawks game. If you have heard him sing once, his voice will immediately be recognizable the next time you hear him. Unfortunately, I did not get video of him singing at the dedication ceremony but (it was a busy day for him) he left the ceremony immediately after his performance to sing at the Bears season opener. As moving as his performance was at the Bears game, it was even more moving at the dedication ceremony. Many were moved to tears.
By the way, is it just a Chicago thing or do other cities cheer during the anthem?
The sculpture, although not complete, did not disappoint. There are two additional elements that will be added later that will incorporate the other two beams. But the central element of the piece is quite beautiful. It’s located at the train station so each morning as I board the train to head to work, I can be reminded of the sacrifices made each day by those called to serve and protect.