As part of my new-found photography hobby, I was exploring the Riverwalk in Naperville, Illinois. It’s a nice little park with lots of interesting walkways, bridges, and gazebos. It would make a great background for some outdoor portraits.
Just before I left, I spotted, across the river, what looked like a whole wall with faces carved on it. I thought that might make a nice background for some pictures, so I snapped a shot of it to remind myself it was a possible shooting location.
When I reviewed the pictures a few days later, I noticed something in one small area of the photo:
|Face Wall Detail|
Is that an eternal flame? If this was a memorial of some kind, it would be disrespectful to use it as a background for a whimsical portrait.
A few days later, I went back to the Riverwalk and made a point of visiting the wall of faces. It was in fact a memorial, inscribed as follows:
Wall of Faces
Faces created by Naperville school children and molded by local artists to represent the casualties of September 11, 2001.
Here’s a better shot of most of the monument area:
You can see the wall of faces, the eternal flame, and the central jumble of granite and steel representing the crumbled buildings.
I didn’t pay much attention to the central figure of steel and granite, except to note several pieces of debris enclosed in glass:
|Debris Protected by Glass|
The was apparently the real thing, some part of the World Trade Center or the Pentagon. I don’t know if you can tell in this picture, but the scarred granite is clearly carved to look that way: It’s not a piece of any of the real damaged buildings.
I then took a look at the twisted girder. An artist had bent it and cut jagged edges on it and leaned it against the carved granite to represent the fallen buildings. Pretty standard modern sculpture.
Until I stumbled on a detail that made me have to sit down:
|Unknown Broken Part|
This was no artist’s detail. Artists add things to a sculpture because they have meaning. The warp of the beam, the jagged edges, the dings and dents, all these could be explained as an artist’s representation of the battered building.
But why this? Why have this tiny, complicated, meaningless thing attached to the side of the sculpture? Unless it’s not a sculpture.
This was the real thing. A piece of steel that was once part of the World Trade Center, then part of the burning pile. Consecrated by heroism and death, cut loose, and brought to this peaceful place in the quiet suburbs of Chicago to remind us all of the events of that day.
I found a sign that explained it. The beam is from the World Trade Center and the small debris fragments are from the Pentagon. That granite is quarried from Pennsylvania, “symbolizing the freedom fighters of Flight 93,” which crashed in Pennsylvania.
There is also a placard, inscribed as follows:
Freedom Isn’t Free
In memory of Commander Dan F. Shanower and the thousands of others who died in the attack on America on September 11, 2001.
Dan Shanower grew up in Naperville, attended Disctrict 203 schools and graduated from Naperville Central High School in 1979. He was commissioned a naval officer in 1985. He was killed at his Pentagon post, serving as chief of the Intelligence Plot for the Chief of U.S. Naval Operations.
These are his words: “…Those of us in the military are expected to make the ultimate sacrifice when called…the military loses scores of personnel every year…Each one risked and lost his or her life in something they believed in, leaving behind friends, family and shipmates to bear the burden and celebrate their devotion to our country…Freedom isn’t free.” (Naval Institute Proceedings, May 1997)
If you’d like more information:
- Cmdr. Shanower’s full speech at the Naval Institute’s web site.
- Shanower’s page at Arlington National Cemetary.
- Messages from people who knew Dan Shanower.
- More about the creation of the Naperville Memorial.
- More about the dedication of the Naperville Memorial.
- A much better picture of the Naperville Memorial.