Reporting Pat Kessler
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It’s a statue of a firefighter that many of us have seen without even knowing what it is. But it is so important, there’s now a major effort underway to give it a proper home.
It’s currently at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. But now, the firefighter’s memorial could be moving to the Capitol.
The official state firefighter’s memorial is not exactly on hallowed ground. Sandwiched between the airport baggage claim and a play area for restless children.
But this airport statue of a firefighter carrying a little girl to safety is a tribute to the 193 firefighters who have died in Minnesota.
“It’s kind of getting squeezed into the lower level,” said Eden Prairie Fire Chief George Esbensen.
He is leading an effort to move the memorial to a more dignified — and accessible — home, out of the airport.
“It certainly isn’t a place where people who have lost love ones, or fellow firefighters in the line of duty could ever go and really have a moment of quiet reflection,” he said.
Its new destination? The State Capitol south mall, near a handful of memorials honoring veterans.
“We don’t glorify war, we glorify the sacrifice. So when it comes to sacrifice, the peace officers and the firefighters give their lives often,” said Paul Mandell, of the Capitol Area Architecture and Planning.
Firefighters are trying to raise $600,000 for the Capitol Memorial, which includes the airport statue, surrounded by a plaza with the names of firefighters who died on duty.
Even as discussions took place regarding the memorial at the Eden Prairie firehouse on Tuesday, the alarm came in from a large commercial building.
The chief reminded everyone — injury and death can come at any time.
“There’s no such thing as a routine call until you get there, and return safely,” Esbensen said. “The call is routine when it is over, and everybody gets back in one piece.”
The firefighter’s memorial fund is asking every one of the 20,000 firefighters in Minnesota to contribute. And they’re asking for the public’s help to build the memorial with private donations.
If you’d like to contribute to the effort, click here.