Statues invoke heroes for charity

By Michelle Fitzhugh-Craig
The Arizona Republic
Dec. 18, 2002

For George Johnson, Dan McWilliams and Billy Eisengrein, it was a spur-of-the-moment decision.

The three firefighters, who were photographed raising a U.S. flag over Ground Zero after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in New York City, became a symbol of faith and hope for Americans. Now, the image is being invoked in two miniature statues being sold to raise money for Arizona charities.

The limited-edition sculptures, sold at Safeway stores throughout Arizona, come in a desktop version mounted on a wood base and a music box that plays God Bless America. Twenty-five percent of the proceeds from the sales will go to the United Phoenix Firefighters Association and be distributed to organizations and, in some cases, Arizona families in need.

"Last year, after September 11, most of the fund-raising efforts were geared toward the victims of New York," said Rich Bauer, a spokesman for the firefighters association. "As a result, most of our local charities suffered and still haven't recovered with the depressed economy."

Bauer said the organization, made up of firefighters from Phoenix, Glendale, Peoria, Tempe and Chandler, hopes to raise $100,000 for local charities. The project wouldn't be possible without Dave and Robert Larson.

"It was an idea . . . to do something in remembrance of September 11," said Dave Larson of Phoenix.

The brothers, Dave, 53, an 18-year Scottsdale police officer, and Robert, 56, a business owner living in Hong Kong, came up with the idea late in 2001. After several meetings with firefighters and lawyers, the Larsons had the statues made in Hong Kong, using a resin cast modeled from the photograph taken by Thomas E. Franklin of the Record of Bergen County (New Jersey).

As stipulated by New York firefighters and the newspaper, which owns the copyright to the picture, an additional 25 percent from sales of the statues will go to funds benefiting victims of the attacks. The remaining 50 percent goes to the Larsons as profit and to cover expenses.

The statues are sold only in Arizona. The Larsons are in negotiations to sell statues in Detroit and Las Vegas next year.

Bauer said sending money to New York City after the attacks "was the right thing to do," but now Arizonans need to support local charities.

"It's a piece of history you don't want to forget," Bauer said. "These three gentlemen took the time to remember who they were . . . and that they stood for America."

of three New York City firefighters who
raised an American flag over Ground Zero,being sold to
raise money for Arizona charities.


Reach the reporter at (602) 444-8671.