Terrorist attacks inspire Washington welder

Nonprofit organization, memorials aimed at rallying American spirit

May 30, 2002
By: Stephanie Vaughan

John Jackson is a welder in Lacey, Wash. who has started The Spirit of America Foundation with a group of people. He established the foundation so that memorials to honor those who were killed in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

A welding gun helped John Jackson heal after his cousin died.

Now he hopes it will bring comfort to the countless people who lost loved ones in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

A welder for more than 20 years, Jackson owns and operates Jackson's Field Welding Services LLC, a steel erection company in Lacey, Wash. With the help of friends and professional contacts, Jackson has founded The Spirit of America Foundation, a nonprofit corporation devoted to establishing, promoting, and developing works that commemorate the efforts made by American men and women to support their fellow citizens in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and advancing works that sustain Americans' patriotic spirit.

Specifically, this foundation provides the framework for a project Jackson would like to see take shape, a project that gives each state in the nation a sculpture that honors those who lost their lives on Sept. 11.

For Jackson, this project has been five years in the making—the terrorist attacks simply brought it to light.

On Jan. 16, 1997, Jackson's 36-year-old cousin, John Ferry, drowned in a commercial fishing boat accident in the Pacific Ocean. Jackson said Ferry was the closest he had to a brother.

Ferry was on the ship with three other crew members, all of whom perished when the ship sank. Ferry's body was one of three that never were recovered. Inspired by love for his cousin, Jackson, with Ferry's brother, Steve, made a sculpture honoring the men who died that day.

The sculpture, a stainless steel tube cross fastened to a half-inch-thick plate anchor, took months to polish until it shined like a mirror, Jackson said. Engraved on the sculpture are the names of the four crew members, along with an inscription: "Dearly missed, never forgotten."

They took it out to sea on Memorial Day that year to the exact coordinates where the boat sank and dropped it 7,800 feet to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean.

"Of everything I've ever made, that was the most important," Jackson said.

Now Jackson hopes the same kind of idea will help heal all who have been touched by the attacks.

"When the president said there should be a memorial made of stone and steel so America will never forget, I felt like he was talking directly to me," he said. "I was proud to hear President Bush say he wanted to make a coalition, and I decided I wanted to make a coalition too—of ironworkers, manufacturers, and suppliers."

A Symbolic Design

So far the design for the sculpture is symbolic, Jackson said. A concrete sidewalk around the sculpture has a star for each state, representing unbroken devotion to each other as a country. Four lights illustrate the planes used in the attacks. The pentagon-shaped base of the sculpture, made of black stone or marble, will be 56 ft. across and 6 ft. tall. It will bear the names of all who lost their lives and will be touchable to children and adults.

Iron beams from the World Trade Center and Pentagon sites will rise 60 to 70 ft. into the air from the sculpture's base (see Figure 1).Also standing atop the base will be 12-ft.-tall bronze figures to represent those killed in the attacks, looking outward and holding hands to symbolize unity and resolve.

Figure 1

"This memorial is meant to be a respectful gesture for each community to give their respect to the victims nationally," said Trent Hart, designer for BJSS Deuarte Bryant, Olympia, Wash., an architectural firm completing the memorial's design and construction drawings.

Hart's job is to create a design Jackson can approve: What size beams to use, what kind of beams to employ, what pieces are critical to include, and how it needs to be put together.

To get an idea of how to help Jackson design the monument, Hart sat in on a meeting with Jackson and listened to his mission.

The Challenge of Making a Memorial PowerfulHart has been challenged by trying to put himself in the position of a person who lost a loved one in the attacks, trying to envision what he would need to see in a memorial.

"If I were one of those people, it would be site-specific," he said. "I would need to go to Pittsburgh, go to the Pentagon, go to the World Trade Center site. I would need to be at those sites. The memorial is not trying to be site-specific. It's meant to be a gesture of what happened. As many aspects as he [Jackson] wants to include—it's my job to make that as powerful as possible."

Bob Schultz can understand firsthand how such a monument can be a powerful element of the healing process.

A Vietnam veteran with 32 years of service in the Army, Schultz lives in Puyallup, Wash., and is the regional manager and senior vice president of the Armed Forces Bank, Fort Lewis, Wash. He draws on these experiences as CEO of The Spirit of America Foundation.

His duties include finalizing a budget, working with the Internal Revenue Service to give the foundation tax-free status, and collecting donations. He plans to begin advertising for donations with the help of unions that have committed themselves to assisting the foundation.

Acting as CEO of a corporation seeking to build memorial statues for the terrorist attack victims is more than a job for Schultz. His healing experiences since the war have helped him relate to the emotions felt now by those affected by the attacks. Seeing the Vietnam War Memorial was a powerful part of the healing process, especially since Schultz's experiences in the war didn't hit him for quite some time.

"It was very fulfilling but very lonely being at the wall," Schultz said. "The healing process was very long and painful."

Schultz said it's understandable how the terrorist attacks can traumatize people in different ways, ironworkers in particular."The comments from ironworkers at Ground Zero have been amazing," he said. "They've spent their lives building, only to have to tear apart. The trauma of that is something I don't think a lot of people understand. It goes entirely against their psyche."

Coincidences Lead to Foundation

The featured speaker at a conference Schultz attended was the person responsible for setting up a foundation that worked to make the Vietnam War Memorial a reality. Schultz said this was quite a coincidence, considering he's been involved with initiating a foundation to make memorials honoring those who died on Sept. 11 a reality.

Jackson also experienced a coincidence that pushed him toward establishing the foundation.

"The pivotal point was on Sept. 13," Jackson said. "My mother-in-law was visiting and called me to the living room, where she was watching the service at St. Patrick's Cathedral.

"What was your cousin's name?" she asked.

"John Ferry," he answered. "Why?"

"Come see this," she said, pointing out the monsignor celebrating Mass at the cathedral.

The monsignor spoke about facing adversity and tragedy with compassion, which inspired Jackson, guiding him toward what was to be The Spirit of America Foundation.

What was the monsignor's name?

John Ferry, the same as his cousin's.

For more information about The Spirit of America Foundation, contact John Jackson, Jackson's Field Welding Services LLC, 6231 Alderglen Drive, Lacey, WA 98513, phone 360-789-1493, e-mail JackFaB1@aol.com, Web site www.thespiritofamericafoundation.org.

Stephanie Vaughan

Stephanie Vaughan

Contributing Writer

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The FABRICATOR is North America's leading magazine for the metal forming and fabricating industry. The magazine delivers the news, technical articles, and case histories that enable fabricators to do their jobs more efficiently. The FABRICATOR has served the industry since 1971.

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