“There will always be someone there… “ – Village Manager and Immediate Past President of the Oak Lawn Rotary Club Larry Deetjen talks about the factors that affected his site choice for the Oak Lawn Rotary Club’s 9/11 First Responder Memorial. This is a smaller part of a larger interview done on Jan 31, 2012 that we’ll post in sections.
Larry, how did the Memorial end up where it is now? What motivated your choice?
“We were talking about where to display it (the Memorial) and how to display it. We looked at the foyer and municipal center. My thoughts were, “We have a lot of wonderful displays in this area. Is there a different venue that we can build that would create and generate more community involvement.”
At the time it was just before I became President of the Oak Lawn Rotary Club. We had a great location just east of the train station in that little plaza area. The buried utility boxes made this a poor choice. We would have spent our already slim budget on moving utilities. Were there other sites? We were looking at Government Plaza (town center) as one, or perhaps along 95th Street with greater visibility.
The train station has a mix of being very quiet and soothing, and yet very busy with commuters or children and families. At night, I often walk there and have seen folks kneeling, reflecting and describing the Memorial to their families with them. They say things like, “Do you know this represents the trapped victims, this represents other victims who died when the towers came down?” I live in the neighborhood and walk to work and see it at all times, both busy and quiet.
Is there anything you’d change?
No. I think the location is spectacular. It’s not easy and this makes you more focused in what you have to achieve. I like the location because there will always be someone there, whether a commuter, a shopper, a resident in the area or a family for the museum. You need it to be where the people are. I can see the area continue to be better because of the Memorial.
We were sad to see Beatty Lumber close, and it’s gone the way of many others. What the site will eventually be is still in the thought and planning process. It will certainly be developed to be an asset to the whole area. With any developers we speak to, we always talk about paying attention to integrate their design with the First Responders Memorial Plaza.
After the event, the country came together and neighbors came together. Neighbors were talking with neighbors. If you didn’t directly know someone who was employed at the World Trade Center, you certainly knew of someone who knew someone. We all became closer. The events of 9/11 brought the people of Oak Lawn together in a patriotic way that is uniquely American.