Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Neighbors, Those Around Us

Willie Mitchell Blvd., South Memphis
 Morgan Parks was shuttling boxes of coffee and non-dairy creamer from his van to the office of our latest Motel 6; he stopped in his tracks when he noticed the ‘big hunk of metal’ on the back of our truck. 'I figured there had to be a story behind that thing,' he mused after hearing...well, the story behind that thing. Morgan, coincidentally, was recently in Bethlehem on business and had stopped by Shanksville and the crash site of Flight 93. ‘You’ll be amazed the plane landed there and didn’t kill anyone,’ he said, noting that though scattered there are houses all throughout the area. Then came the highlight, the surprise that reminded us once again that, cliche as it sounds, you never know who you might meet in any given moment. Morgan, it turned out, was friends with a guy named Jim Sykes who had a radio show on an all-elvis station airing right across the street from Graceland. He gave us a phone number and some free coffee and was on his busy way.

The sun was high and hot when we pulled up to Heartsong Church in Cordova.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Along the Roads We Travel

Pierre, Jon & Daren
Our hopes were high as we headed north out of New Orleans, crossing the waters of lakes Maurepas and Pontchartrain. Today’s road would lead to Memphis, 400 miles up the Mississippi River, a short enough trip to allow for a sojourn along Route 51 instead of spending the day on the Interstate. Images of small unvisited towns - humble environments and electric communities - filled our imaginations.

Route 51, we would soon learn, is lined with lots of forest and farm and not much else. It’s a beautiful drive, from Vicksburg to Clarksdale (the flooding around Redwood and Long Lake notwithstanding). Sadly the bits of life we saw resembled more of life that once was – closed businesses, gutted-out school buildings, collapsed barns and homes wearing nothing but the signs of destitution. Lending contrast were well-tended farm houses floating in wide, neat fields and the occasional shined-up Subway shop.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Strength of a Community

Many of the homes surrounding Our Lady Star of the Sea Catholic Church in the St. Roch district of New Orleans were damaged when Katrina blew through in 2005. Some of them, and countless more all over the city, sit abandoned to this day, their windows boarded up, dates spray-painted on the front door or the porch wall marking the last time anyone set foot inside. The school next to the church still has not reopened.

All of this stood in stark contrast to the people drifting in from all directions.

As we pulled up we were greeted by a man named Emmanuel, dressed sharp right up to his Kangol cap. Moments later Choir Director Richard Cheri emerged from the golden double doors of the church; his wife Cynthia, a choir member, would appear beside him out of nowhere. They all thanked us, graciously and enthusiastically, for coming to their parish. Only a few minutes in we already knew the pleasure would be all ours.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Mexican and Another Motel 6

About 20 miles south of Alexandria, Louisiana Route 71 narrows to two-lanes. This, we hoped, would be where things would become interesting. The plan had been to get on the road early so we could explore the lesser byways all the way down to the Big Easy; what we hadn’t counted on was our search for a motel room turning into Jason’s quest for the golden fleece. Who knew Shreveport was such a popular Memorial Day Weekend destination?

By now we knew what the journey was about: offering ourselves to the whims of the road and taking whatever that gave us. So when we heard the music – ‘Check it out,’ Jon said, pointing at the four-man band on a flatbed trailer parked in an empty paved lot – we knew it was time to pull over.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Losing and Finding Our Way

Coalgate, OK Police & Fire Dept.
Journeys are not planned. Journeys don’t follow schedules. Discovery is not a matter of knowing where to go. And road maps? Well, they do help.

I-40 East turned out to be I-35 North – which led to 33 East, which introduced us to 99 South before we met up, finally, with 3 Sort-of-Southeast – and in the long run things could not have gone better.

It was half past lunch when we found the road narrowing to accommodate the Anytown, USA intimacy of Coalgate, Oklahoma. The diner still advertised on the billboard at the edge of town turned out to be nothing more than a slab of concrete on the way to being consumed by weeds and time, but it only took a minute for Leona, our waitress at the Ole Coaly CafĂ©, to make us feel at home. ‘This place used to be a bank, built sometime in the 1800’s,’ she said. ‘That room back there was the vault.’

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Carrying On From Oklahoma City

Jon with Hans Butzer
Oklahoma City, at least on this Thursday morning, seemed to be on vacation. Aside from the scattered construction crews jackhammering and refacing the sidewalks and the city streets there were precious few people walking around. We circled the refurbished downtown area, making turn after right turn until we pulled onto Mickey Mantle Avenue and parked outside the baseball stadium.

The will call windows were open; people of all ages were milling around, many wearing college colors and paraphernalia. A large group of Texas A&M fans walked up – two families, one with their son who would take the mound later that day. ‘Gig ‘em Aggies!’ they shouted as they posed proudly in front of this modest piece of history no one ever expects to see but manages to touch virtually everyone in some way. George Rooks was retired US Air Force, downtown that morning to draw some sketches of the canal - a hobby of his and quite a talent to boot. ‘No one will ever forget that day,’ he said, shaking his head and clutching his sketch book in one hand.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Past and Present in Oklahoma

John and Claire Martinez were waiting for their car to get fixed at the Brake Masters car care center next to the Motel 6 in Santa Fe. We were tossing our bags in the truck, ready to hit the road for Oklahoma City when they approached.

‘I think of that padre,’ Claire said. ‘Went in right along with those firemen to help…he didn’t make it either…’ Originally from Massachusetts, Claire had family in New Jersey. She said she had more to say but didn’t think she could; with a little gentle prodding from Jon she continued, running a finger under her watering eyes. ‘I was watching it on TV, watching those buildings burn, and the woman next to me said What’s that? I looked closer, and that was then I noticed those people

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

New York to China in Santa Fe

May God always be with those who suffered. God bless the USA.

These were the words Larry Slavin of Aztec, Arizona wrote on a piece of paper at the FINA gas station at the edge of Farmington, New Mexico. These are the words, this is the sentiment echoed by the salt-of-the-earth people we’ve met at every turn.

As Mr. Slavin was slipping his message into the side of the cross Chris Cliff came up to speak with us. ‘I was on my way into town when you guys passed me. I had to turn around and talk to you guys.’ Chris was involved with an organization called 9:9 Ministries, a group that puts on productions of Christ’s Passion in various countries around the world; before Jon had finished explaining what his project was all about Chris was on the phone with his colleagues telling them ‘You gotta see this!’

Monday, May 23, 2011

Common Ground in a Beautiful Place

The men and women at the Grand Canyon Fire Department came from all over. Dave Van Inwagen, who was gracious enough to allow us to stop by ‘whenever you can get here,’ came from Maine via New York and California. Donna was from New Hampshire; Kyle came from Seattle; Paul grew up in Los Angeles, not far from Culver City. They’d moved around too, some of them having worked at five, six, seven National Parks. Paul summed up everyone’s response to the events of 9/11 in a single word: traumatic.

In the parking lot near the Grand Canyon Visitor Center some of a large group of Americans of Asian Indian descent came over to ask ‘what is this for’? Jon, in an explanation he’s already given countless times but continues to do so with sincerity and humility, explained that this cross to him was a symbol for all people, all races, all backgrounds and religions. ‘How does this represent all religions?’ asked a young Hindu man named Malind.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Culver City, Convenience Stores & Vegas

A Message for Those we Lost
We pulled out Sunday morning without fanfare. No lights flashing, no fire engines blowing their horns; just a few guys heading down the PCH with a 14-foot cross on the back of the truck. Traffic was light. The mist hung low and thick over the coast. Our goal for the day was the Grand Canyon, but our first stop would be Culver City.
Jon’s friend and neighbor Bill Young, a firefighter for the Culver City Fire Department, had invited us to come by Station 3 on our way out of town. There’s no telling what we’ll encounter between the coasts, but as we pulled up we could easily imagine this would prove to be as intimate a gathering as we’d find. Six firemen greeted us, pulling their engines out to serve as a proud backdrop for a modest moment of remembrance. Two bypassers paused with their dog. Jon’s words of thanks and humility could be heard from the other side of four-lane Bristol Parkway.
‘For Captain Steve Rankin,’ said Bill, rolling up a blue uniform shirt and sliding it into the hole in the cross’s side. ‘And for Firefighter Chuck Baird. Rest in peace, gentlemen.’ Captain Young would later touch on Captain Rankin’s line of duty death as well as Mr. Baird’s early passing, these two Culver City tragedies coming just in the last two years.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Presentation at View Point School in Calabasas, CA

Dr. Bob Dworkoski spoke quietly, eyes taking everything in. ‘It’s hard to put into words. This is just a moving, powerful experience.’ The Headmaster of View Point School went on to explain that he ‘didn’t know how having this sculpture come to campus would work out.’ Watching his students reaching into a box of paper and pens, writing down their thoughts and climbing a stepladder to slip their notes into the heart of the cross it was clear that the message – some message – had gotten through.
What does 9/11 mean to someone who was five years old at the time? To someone who was too young to have any memory of that day? To someone who didn’t even exist ten years ago, and only knows of a place called New York from TV?
The kids came in waves, one and two classes at a time. They came to see, out of pointed interest or simple curiosity, this cross sculpture thing their teachers had told them about. ‘Imagine this huge building crashing down,’ Jon said, painting a picture for the students as they stood in a half circle around him. ‘And then think about these firemen running into the building right next to that, risking their lives to go try to help save people they didn’t even know.’

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Local Sculptor Creates 9/11 Cross, Takes it to New York

By Paul Sisolak / Special to the Malibu Times
Wednesday, May 18, 2011 2:27 PM PDT
Jon Krawczyk is a man on a mission to commemorate the victims of 9/11. The Malibu sculptor departed Malibu Wednesday morning, driving an open flatbed truck, carrying a 14-foot steel cross that will make its way to a New York City cathedral next week.

Krawczyk's journey is taking him to several points across the country, with Ground Zero the destination, where his creation, which the artist welded from fragments obtained from the World Trade Center rubble, will hang outside St. Peter's Church.

Read More HERE.

Viewing at Malibu Bluffs Park & Official Unveiling at Leslie Sacks Fine Art

On Tuesday May 17th Jon Krawczyk brought his Cross to Malibu Bluffs Park. We were met by members of LA County Fire Department's Squad 88, who helped us carry the cross from the truck to a field overlooking the Pacific Ocean. This in itself was an amazing moment, imbued with significance and laced with emotion. A crowd of people had also gathered, eagerly anticipating their first view of the St. Peter 9-11 Cross; bypassers too found themselves drawn in by both the magic of the Cross and their own curiosity.
All hands were on the Cross as we raised it up against a backdrop of marbled sky and misty sea. Father William Kerzy of Our Lady of Malibu Catholic Church conferred a blessing on the Cross, praying for the peace that all of us seek; Jon Krawczyk followed with his own heartfelt words of what this Cross and this Journey mean to him.

The Catholic Business Journal Spotlights the Journey

9-11 Memorial Cross Forged Of Stainless Steel Makes Its Way Across The Nation
 by Mark McElrath

The cross is a symbol of hope. It speaks of life’s journey and to life’s limitless potential. For the innocent, whose lives were taken from them, this cross stands as a memorial. For the courageous, who faced death so others might live, this cross stands as a tribute. For all of us, walking the streets today, this cross reflects who we are and who we may choose to become. —Sculptor, Jon Krawczyk
Out of the rubble of New York City's Twin Towers on that fateful 9-11 morning emerged a symbol of hope: a perfectly proportioned cross formed from the steel girders of the previously standing towers. The rescue workers quickly understood what it was and, more importantly, recognized the deeper meaning it would come to symbolize—hope in the future after the most devastating attack on American soil in history.

This cross was moved to a prominent location above the smoldering pit and was draped in the American flag and as rescue efforts became recovery, the remains of victims were brought before this cross for a moment of prayer before being taken on to the makeshift morgue. This cross remained a point of prayer and refreshment for the workers who were tasked with their unfathomable responsibility. On it, they inscribed their names, wrote prayer petitions and reflections.

Later, the cross was relocated from the rubble to a pedestal at the corner of Liberty and Church streets. And later still, when reconstruction efforts required this space, the cross was moved to St. Peter’s church, which is directly across the street from Ground Zero, and placed on the Church Street side of the property, directly facing the site of the 9-11 attacks. Here it has stood since October 2006, until such time as its permanent home at the September 11th Memorial and Museum is prepared to accept it.  That time is quickly approaching...
Read More HERE at the CBJ.

Presentation at St. Maximilian's Catholic Church

On May 15th Jon Krawczyk presented his cross to the congregation at St. Maximilian Church in Malibu.
In an emotional speech Jon gave a glimpse into the journey across America that would soon be underway.
All present were moved, some to tears, by the significance of the cross and all this piece of work represents.
One woman in the crowd had just recently moved to Los Angeles from New York; she had lost more than 25 friends on September 11, and while she could hardly express in words her sadness and gratitude in the moment it was clear that this project holds immense power, and as we make our way towards New York City we hope many more people will see this as an opportunity to reflect, to remember, to think about the future we all face.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Official Press Release: St. Peter's 9-11 Cross

Artist Jon Krawczyk and 9/11 Memorial Cross
Begin Pilgrimage to St. Peter’s Catholic Church, N.Y.C.

Unveiling and Departure Wednesday, May 18, 8:00 AM

Los Angeles, CA – May 16, 2011 - Los Angeles sculptor Jon Krawczyk has completed fabrication of a fourteen foot tall stainless steel cross incorporating fragments of steel from the World Trade Center. These relics of 9/11 were provided by the National 9/11 Memorial and Museum, presently under construction at the site of the World Trade Center. The base of the cross will serve as a podium for a stainless steel book, still in fabrication, whose pages will be engraved with the names of those who perished as a result of the 9/11 attacks.

Krawczyk’s 9/11 memorial will take the place of the cruciform I-beam girders found standing in the ruins of the World Trade Center, then moved to St. Peter’s Catholic Church near Ground Zero. St. Peter’s, the oldest Catholic church in New York, was damaged in the attacks of 9-11.

Krawczyk’s 9/11 Memorial Cross will be unveiled at Leslie Sacks Fine Art, 11640 San Vicente Blvd., Los Angeles (Brentwood) California 90049 at 8:00 AM on Wednesday, May 18th and depart for the East Coast immediately thereafter.

Krawczyk, accompanied by long time friend and author Kevin Kato, will shepherd the artist’s 9/11 Memorial Cross by open truck to Shanksville, Pennsylvania (the crash site of United Flight 93), and the Pentagon in Washington DC, stopping along the way in Santa Fe, Indianapolis, Memphis and Nashville before placing the cross in storage until the original Ground Zero girders cross, now standing at St. Peter’s, is moved later this year to the National 9/11 Memorial and Museum.

Artist’s statement: “When installed, the cross will be polished to a mirror finish so each and every onlooker will see himself or herself reflected in it, hopefully thinking about those who sacrificed before them, and then considering what their own sacrifice will be. But before they think, I want people to see the beauty first – the beauty of existence, the beauty of the cross, then remember the destruction and find a better way.”

Costs of the 9/11 Memorial Cross are underwritten by a group of anonymous donors, the artist and Leslie Sacks Fine Art. Jon Krawczyk is represented by Leslie Sacks Fine Art.