A lasting tribute to fallen firefighters

New memorial prepares to take its place on plaza in Annapolis

June 07, 2006|By JAMIE STIEHM | JAMIE STIEHM,SUN REPORTER

Firefighting is in Paul H. Thorne's blood.

A paramedic employed in Prince George's County and a volunteer firefighter in Forestville, Thorne, 42, followed in the footsteps of his father, who worked for the same department - one that was founded in the 1930s by other relatives.

"I guess you get to the point where the fire department's like your second set of family members," Thorne said.

Yesterday, Thorne came with a video camera to record a family movie of sorts: the installation of the statues on the state's new memorial to fallen firefighters. They were moved from a Baltimore foundry to their new home on a triangular brick plaza on the gateway into Annapolis.

Exactly 376 names are inscribed on the memorial's low wall, starting with an 1840 casualty. Paul H. Thorne Sr., who died of a stroke last fall while at the firehouse, is No. 376.

"Oh, I think he'd be very impressed," Thorne said.

The $850,000 Maryland Fallen Firefighters Memorial, commissioned by the nonprofit Maryland Fire-Rescue Services Foundation, is to be dedicated Sunday with a bagpipe procession. A procession leading to the memorial will begin at 1 p.m. at Amos Garrett Boulevard and West Street.

Baltimore-based sculptor Rodney Carroll supervised transport of the five statues that are part of the memorial. It was the end of a three-year project for him and a nine-year project for the foundation, officials said.

"This is a place to say goodbye for those who never had a chance, to reach back to loved ones," said Carroll, who also created the abstract sculpture Firebird that stands outside the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall in Baltimore.

The memorial features bronze figures of a male firefighter and a female emergency medical services worker perched on the top of the memorial, representing those in peril in the line of duty. They are raised high on a plinth, looking down to three figures - who Carroll said represent the living community of firefighting families: an old man, a middle-aged woman and a teenage boy - also representing society's past, present and future generations. Seven steps represent the seven days a week that firefighters are on call. And it will remain lit at night, officials said.

"It's all about reaching out to the people [atop] the staircase and reaching back to loved ones," Carroll said.

The foundation chairman, J. Donald Mooney of Lansdowne, said the organization asked for, and got, the prime piece of real estate - in front of the Louis L. Goldstein Treasury Building off Rowe Boulevard - from the state when Parris N. Glendening was governor.

The state funded about half of the memorial, with the rest privately raised. Contributing organizations, mostly fire companies spanning the state from Chevy Chase to Chesapeake City, are listed on bricks - about 1,200 bricks so far, foundation officials said. One simply bears a Bible verse from the book of John: "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."

Carroll titled the sculpture Between Morning and Midnight, a concept that won a major design competition held by the foundation a few years ago. It is meant to create a communal space between the living and the dead.

Daniel Ringwelski, a volunteer firefighter in Odenton, was the model for the firefighter at the top. He was there yesterday to see the work installed.

"He geared me up in 50 or 60 pounds of equipment a day or two a week, with only a diet Coke," Ringwelski, 38, said.

Robert D. Ringle, vice chairman of the nonprofit foundation said, "It's very rewarding to see it come together after we researched and researched those who perished in the line of duty."jamie.stiehm@baltsun.com

Sun reporter Alia Malik contributed to this article.

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