LEXINGTON, S.C. (WIS) - The two large boulders that sit at the corner of Highway 378 and Keisler Road in Lexington are often painted, but their latest coat of paint is turning heads.
Lorne and Kim White often decorate the rocks for a variety of holidays and special occasions, but this year marked the first time the pair honored those who made the ultimate sacrifice on September 11, 2001.
“It’s very emotional. It brings tears to my eyes,” Lorne White said. “We have to remember our history. They need to continue to teach this in school.”
White spent Tuesday afternoon painting the two rocks, using cut-out stencils of an American flag and a kneeling firefighter. The work for the display began long before Tuesday, however, as he started constructing two five-foot-tall wooden towers earlier this summer to represent the World Trade Center.
“It took me about a week, two hours a day, to get all of the names of the almost 3,000 victims written on both towers,” he said. “I didn’t think I would have enough room to put all the names on there. There’s that many names. I came up one short and had to put it on the side way down there. At first, I thought I had plenty of room, but as I got to writing, my room was running out. It’s horrible.”
On Wednesday, dozens of people stopped to look and take pictures of the display, while others honked from nearby 378 vocalizing their support. One of the people who stopped by on Wednesday was John Ryan, a retired firefighter with the New York City Fire Department. He retired in 2005 after 15 years with the department. He recalled driving into work after learning the north tower had been struck.
“I was driving in from the island where I was living and we could see the smoke,” Ryan said. “I picked up a couple other guys and started racing into town since police had everything shut down. We came up to see the south tower is gone…and I’m like, ‘Holy sh**! The South Tower is gone!’”
Ryan said, as they got closer, the north tower fell.
“We just jumped out of our truck and got right into the rubble and didn’t leave that pile for a week,” he said. “We slept when we could, but I wanted to get in and look for my brother firefighters, climbing through voids, cuttings things out, doing whatever you can to find them.”
Ryan said he lost almost 20 of his good friends that day.
About a year later, Ryan said he began developing a cough and had ongoing issues with his sinuses, which required several surgeries. Last year, he moved to South Carolina, the same year he received his cancer diagnosis.
“It’s because of all that searching and work we were doing at Ground Zero,” he said. “I’m really sick.”
He was pleased to meet the Whites and is appreciative of the memorial and everything it represents.
“Maybe it’s not as forgotten about down here as I thought it was,” he said.
He also has advice for those not old enough to remember the day, only learning about it years later in history books.
“Pay attention, read up on it, look at the pictures and remember all the lives lost that day,” he said. “Just like Pearl Harbor, or World War II or Vietnam, all that stuff, they have to keep teaching it you can’t hide it or put it on back shelf, it’s part of the history.”