Washington County's First Responders Memorial in its infancy phase

| Saturday, March 9, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Nearly six months after a ceremonial ground breaking, organizers behind an ambitious Washington County memorial for police officers, firefighters and other emergency workers are still trying to raise awareness — and money.

Northwest Savings Bank branches can accept donations for the First Responders Memorial planned for Washington Cemetery in North Franklin. Donations can be made at the cemetery office.

The project is estimated to cost as much as $500,000. So far, $1,500 has been raised through donations from the North Strabane and Peters fire departments.

“The project itself is kind of in the infancy stages,” said Paul Shiring Sr., the cemetery's superintendent who is working on the project with Washington City Councilman Joe Manning. “It's going to take some time to raise this money.”

Brentwood artist Jim Prokell sketched a rendering that depicts a firefighter passing an injured child to an emergency medical technician with a police officer there to help. He hopes to create a model after more money is raised.

“It's called momentum,” said Prokell, who designed the Flying Scot statue at Edinboro University. “You've got to think big.”

The envisioned memorial would include a three-sided marble base with a larger-than-life bronze sculpture. Private alcoves with benches would be incorporated so visitors can quietly reflect.

“This thing, if done correctly, is going to out-live all of us involved in its creation,” Prokell said. “It needs to be timeless enough to be embraced by decades beyond us.”

Inspiration came from the work of first responders on Sept. 11, 2001, many of whom died when the Twin Towers collapsed, and intensified following the February 2007 death of Washington firefighter Jeremy Labella, who became the department's first fatality in 50 years, said Manning, a former firefighter and EMT whose late father was Washington's fire chief.

“It's very important that I see this through,” Manning said.

The project is important to Shiring for personal reasons. His son is a North Strabane firefighter.

“When you have a son or daughter who works as a first responder, the phrase, ‘I'm going to work, Dad,' takes on a whole different meaning,” Shiring said, his voice cracking slightly with emotion. “This is coming, and it's in their honor. We just hope it serves them right.”

Jason Cato is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7936 or jcato@tribweb.com.

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