OAKLAND -- Artist Mario Chiodo has been waiting and working tirelessly for 12 years to install the final piece of his "Remember Them: Champions for Humanity" monument at Henry J. Kaiser Memorial Park.
The monument, which stands 21 feet and weighs about 60,000 pounds, is a four-piece bronze sculpture depicting 25 individuals -- including Abraham Lincoln, Cesar Chavez and Mahatma Gandhi -- Chiodo felt have had a hand in changing history through humanitarian efforts.
On Thursday, Chiodo, the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and the Oakland Fire Department presented the Sept. 11-inspired piece's fourth and final section with a special presentation of a steel remnant from the World Trade Center.
"We want to honor those lost and salute those who responded valiantly under such terrible circumstances," said Joseph Haraburda, president of the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce.
The steel remnant, protected in a glass casing, was displayed at City Hall and then taken by firetruck to the memorial site. Two firefighters from the California Task Force 4, who went to New York City in response to the attacks on the World Trade Center, were chosen to place the remnant in a chamber within the fourth piece of the monument.
Mayor Jean Quan, who attended the first presentation of the monument in 2011, offered words of support for the project.
"We hope this will help others to acknowledge history and inspire them to change history
Shanton Tyson, a student at Saint Mary's College, had her own personal connection to the ceremony.
"It reminds you that no matter where you are in the world, everyone remembers (Sept. 11) and this really hits home for me," she said. "This just shows love and unconditional support, and it means the world to me."
Originally from New York, Tyson's father, John Tyson, was a lieutenant for the New York Fire Department and was among those called to respond to the Sept. 11 attacks. Although more than 300 firefighters did not survive, he came out of it with a crushed ankle.
Long-awaiting this final installment, Chiodo was thrilled that the day had finally arrived.
"I wouldn't call this a milestone; it's more of a 'major' stone," he said. "We're almost at the very end of completing the project, and I feel really good."
In early April there will be a formal dedication and official opening of Henry J. Kaiser Memorial Park after a wall for the visually impaired and other smaller projects are completed as an extension to the "Remember Them" monument.