'This Is About All of Us'
Artist Erik Blome explains his vision for 'Heralds of 9/11' first responder sculpture.
The Oak Lawn Rotary Club rolled out the red carpet Wednesday night for Erik Blome, the artist who has been commissioned to build the First Responder 9/11 sculpture incorporating beams from the fallen World Trade Center.
Showered with a shopping bag full of coupons and trinkets from local businesses and praise from residents and village officials, Blome said he was bowled over by Oak Lawn’s warm reception.
“It’s nice to see that the community is behind this,” Blome said.
The sculptor shared his vision for his “Heralds of 9/11” piece to be dedicated on the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Blome plans to stand the World Trade Center beams vertically amid bronze obelisks, to create a grove effect.
Other communities throughout the United States have built similar sculptures with pieces of the World Trade Center, but the scultpure being planned in Oak Lawn will be the first in the Southland.
“People will be able to walk through a grove of beams," Blome told a rapt audience during a private reception at the Children's Museum. "I’m going to sculpt additions to those beams that will be an uplifting obelisk shape.
“There will be a lot of realism, even though the sculpture looks abstract,” he added. “I want it to have a meaningful presence that isn’t political and isn’t anything but what we experienced on 9/11.”
Blome was teaching a sculpture class the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. Unaware of the terrorist attacks that morning, he thought it was weird when none of his students showed up for class.
When one of his students finally did come to class, Blome said she was despondent. Still not knowing that planes had flown into the Twin Towers in New York City and about the Pentagon attack in Washington, D.C., Blome described the proceeding conversation with his student as “ten minutes of talking in code.”
“I couldn’t get her to tell me exactly what was going on,” Blome said. “She said, ‘Don’t you know? Look at the sky.’”
Blome went home and turned on the TV, not knowing the extent or magnitude of the attacks. It wasn’t until his brother who worked for the state department in Washington D.C., called to say he was safe and OK.
“I started to realize what this is all about,” Blome said. “I thought, ‘My God, he could have been hit.’ That’s when I knew what this is all about, that we all have some sort of connection to 9/11, and that we have to appreciate these when they happen and understand that we’re connected to them.”
Blome said he chose a herald or messenger for his theme, because a herald figure transcends all religions—including Christianity, Judaism, Islam and Hindu.
“When I think of the herald or a messenger, I think of what these terrorists said that they were sending us a message,” Blome explained, “but the message sent to us wasn’t from them, it’s what we did in response that is the message.
“It’s the message that we sent to ourselves that I’m trying to show. Not the message they brought to us, but the message that we projected back.”
Blome grew up in Deerfield and moved back to Chicago three days ago after a fire nearly destroyed his house. Fortunately, many of his family’s belongings were saved, thanks to the local fire department where he lived in the San Francisco area.
“I went and thanked the firefighters who were the first responders,” he said.
After Wednesday’s private reception, Blome went out and met with residents, who had gathered at the Oak Lawn Metra Station, near the site where the sculpture will be installed.
Blome called the September 11 deadline “tight” and said he will work throughout the summer on the sculpture. He plans to divide his time between his studio in Lake County where he will cast the bronze additions and Oak Lawn, where the beams are.
When it comes time to weld the beams on to bases, Blome will work in the Oak Lawn Public Works garage at 5532 W. 98th St.
The Oak Lawn Rotary Club hopes to raise $100,000 to pay for the installation. No public money is being used and several fundraisers are in the works. The Rotarians have established a blog, Monumental Oak Lawn, where residents can get information about upcoming fundraisers.
Patch will be following Blome’s progress throughout the summer, including a trip up to Lake County to visit his studio.