Oak Lawn 9/11 ceremony honors ‘courage and commitment’
BY CASEY TONER firstname.lastname@example.org September 11, 2012 10:58AM
The 9-11 monument honoring first responders in Oak Lawn, Illinois, Tuesday, September 11, 2012. The monument includes four beams from the World Trade Center towers attacked on September 11, 2001. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 14, 2012 1:24PM
Staring at four gnarled steel beams taken from the wreckage at ground zero, Oak Lawn firefighter Chris Karpluk on Tuesday morning remembered the hopelessness he felt on 9/11.
“I was working at the village firehouse, and it brought back every emotion,” Karpluk said. “It was fear then, and today it was sadness.”
Karpluk was one of many firefighters, police officers and local officials who gathered early Tuesday at Oak Lawn’s 9/11 memorial at the Patriot Metra station to remember the first responders who died 11 years earlier in the terrorist attacks.
Two hijacked jetliners crashed into the World Trade Center in New York, and one into the Pentagon. A fourth plane crashed in a Pennsylvania field after passengers overpowered the terrorists.
Nearly 3,000 victims died in the attacks, including 343 firefighters and paramedics who rushed to the Twin Towers to help before the buildings collapsed.
“We remember their courage and commitment to serving their fellow citizens at such a high cost to themselves,” said Catherine Fairfield, the executive director of Oak Lawn Family Services and an American Baptist pastor. “We thank you, the first responders of the community.”
Christina Finn, who sends homemade patriotic pillows to military overseas, added to the somber mood by reading a poem, “Sleeptember 2001,” that she wrote earlier in the morning.
“ ‘Sleeptember’ 2001 slapped us in the face and woke a sleeping giant,” Finn said. “Disbelief only to be replaced by disappointment.”
The four beams at the center of the ceremony were donated to the village for its memorial sculpture. The Oak Lawn Rotary Club raised $85,000 for the creation of the memorial.
Artist Erik Blome used the beams to create a sculpture that pays tribute to the police officers and firefighters who died on 9/11. The faces of firefighters and police officers are sculpted into the steel, and one of the beams is adorned with a pair of wings.
Adam Woodworth, the executive director of the Oak Lawn Rotary Club, said the memorial not only recognizes the police and firefighters who perished when the Twin Towers fell, but also the ordinary Americans who died rushing to help.
“We don’t know how many lives were saved because of a young girl who grew up and said, ‘I want to be a firefighter or an EMT,’ ” Woodworth said.
The memorial is incomplete and remains fenced off. Sandra Bury, the Rotary Club’s fundraising chair, said that lights, plaques and a 2-inch-thick granite floor have yet to be installed.
Most of the labor and materials used were donated.
Parts of the beams that were removed during the sculpture’s creation are being used at the nearby Children’s Museum. They are featured behind an illustration of an American flag as part of an exhibit titled, “We The People.”
Village manager Larry Deetjen said the early morning ceremony was a “tribute to the day you don’t want to ever forget.”