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Rosalea Barker: Remember Them

Rosalea Barker: Remember Them

Rosalea Barker
September 11, 2011

My 9/11 began at 2am, when I awoke anxious to know what the score was in the Ireland-USA World Cup Rugby match. I’m pleased that the US wasn’t defeated 46-3, which was my guess, especially because rugby featured large in the memorial service I went to in September 2001 for one of the people on board Flight 93. I wrote about Mark Bingham’s memorial service here.

As I wrote in that article, I don’t normally go to memorial services for people I don’t know, and I was particularly not going to go to any of the 10th Anniversary memorials today—not because I didn’t feel sad for the people who died, but because there’s only so much flag-waving a person can take. However, there was one service that caught my eye, and since I was already up early and the service was at 5.45am—the West Coast equivalent of the time the first plane hit one of the Twin Towers—I went to it.

Remember Them—Champions of Humanity is a set of bronze sculptures that were installed last weekend at a small park near the Fox Theatre in Oakland. The Grand Unveiling was earlier this week, and today there was a silent vigil remembering the victims of 9/11, hosted by the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce. Of course, no one in the US can remain silent for long, so the speakers included Mayor Jean Quan, local Assemblyman Sandre Swanson—whose cousin was a flight attendant on board Flight 93—the Chief of Staff from Congresswoman Barbara Lee’s district office, and the artist himself.

In his Artist’s Statement on the sculpture’s website, Mario Chiodo says:

I have chosen these humanitarians because, regardless of their individual backgrounds or missions, they share the common threads of courage, perseverance, education, sacrifice, and a sincere desire to strive for a better life for all. This monument represents an international cross-section of visionaries throughout several centuries who have inspired and aided others through their passionate beliefs in human rights and peace. From the vast number of humanitarians in the world worth being acknowledged, this unique grouping offers twenty-five individuals who have touched my heart and inspired me in times of darkness.

While some might disagree about Chiodo’s choice of humanitarians—one Facebook commenter wonders why “the guy who signed Executive Order 9066”, which interned the Japanese during WWII, is there, and I wonder the same about Winston Churchill—the choice was his to make. You can watch an interview with Mario Chiodo on This Week in Northern California here. Also interviewed was Ruby Bridges, who, as a young girl, had to be accompanied by US Marshals on her first day at a desegregated school in New Orleans. The photo below is taken over the shoulder of her sculpted figure at this morning’s vigil.

The terror attacks on 9/11 were the direct inspiration for Chiodo’s work. Some people rushed off to sign up for military service; his reaction was to wonder why such anti-US anger had arisen. Deciding that the roots of all violent actions lie in frustration with injustice, Mario Chiodo decided to honor not “fallen heroes” but people whose lives exemplified a commitment to fighting injustice of all kinds. Amen to that.

If you wish to donate money so the final piece of the sculpture can be completed, there is an online form here.



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