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Church State Issues

Oro Valley Town Council orders relgious monument

Apr 1, 2011

Arizona Republic Article

Tucson shooting victim honored by angel statue

Statue to honor youngest victim of Jan. shooting

by Richard Ruelas - Apr. 1, 2011 12:00 AM

The Arizona Republic

The artist who designed the memorial set to be installed outside an Oro Valley Little League field today in memory of Christina-Taylor Green, the youngest victim of the January shooting outside Tucson, is not the type to wait for a municipal committee to select her for the honor.

Lei Hennessy-Owen, 51, already has a design - a thin, steel angel she created after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks - and looks for opportunities to place it. Her goal is to have angel statues placed at sites around the country.

She made one for the site of the fallen Twin Towers in New York and another for the Pennsylvania field where the hijacked Flight 93 crashed. She created statues in honor of Jessica Lynch, the prisoner-of-war rescued in Iraq in 2003; a Pittsburgh mayor who died in office in 2006; and President George W. Bush after his re-election in 2004.

"I try to do really good human-interest stories," she said. "It has to be someone pretty special, though."

Not all of her angel statues remain where Hennessy-Owen placed them. Some have been moved into storage or parts unknown. And the statue delivered to Ground Zero weeks after the attacks was almost immediately snared in red tape and black tarp by bureaucrats who didn't think it proper amid the Twin Towers' rubble.

Still, she thinks her winged, gowned angel, with hands clasped in prayer, can become an icon around the country. She makes no apologies for her direct approach in offering herself up as a memorial artist.

"I just go get it done," said Hennessy-Owen, who persuades companies to donate steel and delivery.

Her angel in memory of Christina-Taylor will be unveiled at a 5 p.m. ceremony at the Little League field where the 9-year-old played. The field will be renamed Green Field. Christina-Taylor was the only girl on her Canyon Del Oro team, and dreamed of being the first woman to play in the Major Leagues.

Christina-Taylor was one of six people killed in the shooting Jan. 8, which also wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was hosting a meet-and-greet at a grocery store north of Tucson.

The statue was considered at the March 16 meeting of the Oro Valley Town Council. It had a quick path through town bureaucracy. A report to the council from the parks and recreation department said, "Because of the expedited timing of the installation and dedication, the typical board and commission recommendations are not provided."

Before the vote, Leslie Crist, a friend of the Green family, spoke to the council. "Having the (angel) in our park overlooking the children playing and growing would, I believe, be a source of great strength," she told them.

She said the angel would turn the park into a healing place, much like the angel did at Ground Zero and at the Flight 93 field.

The council was told, according to the agenda, that the angel would be a "replica of the 9/11 World Trade Center Angel and will be provided by a foundation composed of families who lost loved ones in the 9/11 tragedy." The vote was unanimous.

Hennessy-Owen is not a member of such a foundation, however. She is simply a woman who by the force of her will has moved her angels into place.

Hennessy-Owen said she was touched by the story of Christina-Taylor, who was born on Sept. 11, 2001, and wanted to make herself something positive to come out of that day.

From her home in Pennsylvania, Hennessy-Owen started calling Tucson-area fire departments.

She eventually reached John Green, the father of Christina-Taylor, Crist said. Crist sifted through the many offers coming to the family and, the week after Christina-Taylor's funeral, presented a few to the Greens, including the angel statue.

Crist said she picked the angel because "of the connection to 9/11," she said. Plus, Crist said, "I'm all about angels."

Hennessy-Owen had a Somerset, Pa., foundry cut the 9-foot, 11-inch-tall statue out of a quarter-inch sheet of steel. Additionally, Hennessy-Owen asked for and received from the Port Authority a piece of steel from the World Trade Center. The 5 1/2-foot piece of I beam, some metal pieces from the Pentagon and a large stone from a Christian campground about 3 miles from the Pennsylvania crash site, will be placed near the statue.

In November, the Port Authority also released the original angel that she delivered to Ground Zero 10 weeks after the terrorist attacks, said agency spokesman Steve Coleman. It had been stored in an airport hangar for nearly nine years.

After the 9/11 attacks, Hennessy-Owen said firefighters near her home in Blaine, Wash., suggested she create a large angel to take to New York City.

The 10-day trip across the country ended on Nov. 16, 2001. Rescue and recovery efforts at Ground Zero had ended just days before.

Hennessy-Owen did not have permission to place her statue. She said firefighters helped clear the way in the middle of the night.

"We basically kind of snuck her onto Ground Zero," Hennessy-Owen said.

According to a 2001 story in New York Newsday, the angel was the subject of a hide-and-seek game the next morning. When officials with the city Department of Design and Construction located it, the article said, they covered the angel with a tarp and trucked it away.

It was later placed in a hangar at the John F. Kennedy International Airport along with other pieces of steel from the site.