Elmhurst’s First Responder Memorial to be dedicated Sept. 11

Elmhurst Fire Department Deputy Chief Steve Reynolds addresses attendees during a groundbreaking for a first responders memorial plaza at the Elmhurst Fire Department Station 2.

A section of steel rail salvaged from the wreckage of the World Trade Center towers after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks will be permanently enshrined in Elmhurst as a memorial to the first responders who died that day.

The groundbreaking ceremony for the First Responders Memorial project at Fire Station 2, 605 S. York St., was April 5.

The centerpiece will be a sculpture by local artist Jason Peot, incorporating a 13-foot-long section of rail given to the city by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. The sculpture will be surrounded by a commemorative brick courtyard.

Elmhurst Fire Department Deputy Chief Steve Reynolds said the rail has been with the department since 2016.

“Pieces of metal were distributed to fire departments all over the country and we got one of the last remaining pieces. … It was part of the rail system that ran under the Trade Center,” Reynolds said.

Through a multiyear fundraising effort, the Elmhurst community – including the fire department, businesses and residents – has contributed almost 90% of the project’s $200,000 goal. One anonymous donation was made in the amount of $10,000, fire officials said.

A dedication ceremony for the sculpture and courtyard is planned for Sept. 11, which will mark the 23rd anniversary of the attacks.

The Elmhurst Fire Department annually hosts a Sept. 11 ceremony.

“And we always bring the piece of steel rail out there,” Reynolds said. “This memorial is going to be a place that members of the community and anybody visiting can come and reflect on the tragic events that happened that day and how the country came together in the days following. I think we could all use a little bit of that remembrance.”

Peot, a sculpture and design professor at Harper College, described his design, titled “Vestige,” as “intentionally minimalist.”

The welded stainless steel sculpture will consist of open white cubes of various sizes stacked on top of one another connected by the steel rail running through the center.

“What I chose to do was make the piece of rail really prominent in the piece and have it be sort of the core of the sculpture, so it both physically and conceptually ties the piece together. … It literally connects the two forms, which are clearly reminiscent of the twin towers,” Peot said. “The structure of the sculpture is meant to have different experiences as you view it from different angles. The open, grid-like structure of the two forms make them visually come together, forming one singular form.

Peot’s goal of the sculpture is twofold.

“I hope it both functions as a strong, meaningful memorial but also adds something new and different to the public art and culture of Elmhurst,” he said.

Peot, who is married with three children, said he is thrilled to create art for the city he calls home.

“It seemed like a great opportunity to have a significant and permanent piece so close to home that family and friends can see,” he said.

For information about the project or to donate, visit https://rb.gy/41211c.