MOORE, Okla. —
Seven bright, interesting and special children who lost their lives last year in the May 20, 2013, EF-5 tornado always will remembered by their family and dearest friends.
Now with the building of the Plaza Towers 7 Memorial, Kyle Davis, JaNae Hornsby, Antonia Candelaria, Emily Conatzer, Sydney Angle, Nicholas McCabe and Christopher Legg also will always be remembered by the community they lived in and loved. Set to be open in August along with the 2014-2015 school year, the memorial will remember those lost while representing the resilience of Plaza Towers Elementary School.
Chad Vice, of Havenbrook Funeral Home and Norman Public Schools Board of Education member who has been working on the memorial since its inception, said the design of the memorial came to life after a private meeting with the families of the seven children.
“We broke bread and spent time with them and asked them ‘What is it you want to remember about your children?’” Vice said. “We didn’t want the event to overshadow these kids. Through the tears and discussion we came to the memorial design.”
The design also is in keeping with the purpose and needs of an elementary school. Vice said the design paves the way for the future and is not solely about death.
The memorial will be located at the new Plaza Towers Elementary School, which is under construction at the same site as the original school. The memorial will be located at the entrance of the school and welcome students as a beacon of hope.
The memorial design will incorporate five key elements. The first element will be seven solid granite benches with the names of each student and a special object carved into the benches symbolizing the individuality of each child. Second, a large shade tree will be planted in the lawn next to the benches to provide shade for those seated in the area.
Next, the memorial will be paved with thick granite slabs in two colors — gray and mahogany. The mahogany granite will form seven rays of sun, a symbol of happiness that each child brought to the school and their family, friends and community. Inspirational messages create the fourth element of the memorial. Words like that of “dance, learn, inspire, laugh, friendship and dream” will encompass both the spirit of the seven children, while staying perfectly aligned with the purpose of an elementary school, Vice said.
Lastly, seven silhouettes of children (three boys and four girls) will be engraved onto plaques on the wall of the school entrance, as if they were running, walking or skipping.
Each silhouette will include a personal effect that will represent items special to the children’s lives.
Recently Vice, along with others who have orchestrated the memorial, visited the site to check on its progress.
“Walking through the school, there is a presence there that is just awesome. You can just feel it,” Vice said.
Because the site has been under construction, Vice said the parents of the children the memorial honors had not been able to return to the site of their children’s deaths. He said he hoped the memorial would envelope the parents in a peace and allow healing to take place.
“One of the moms said to me, ‘I cannot wait to go in there at night, in the stillness of the night, and sit on my son’s bench and think about him and take him in,’” Vice said.
Funding for the memorial is completely reliant on private donations. Vice said that to be completed, the memorial needs to raise $180,000. To donate, go to plazatowers7.org or call Havenbrook Funeral home at (405) 329-0101. All funding will be administered by the Moore Public Schools Foundation, a 501 (c)(3). Donations are tax deductible.
“This is sacred ground and holy ground. Seven vibrant kids went to school in the morning and by Monday afternoon they were gone,” Vice said. “That’s why it’s so important to yes, rebuild and carry on, but also never forget what was taken.
“Out of my 30 years, this is the most important work I’ve ever done because it’s timeless and will long outlive you or me. It’s so important we get it right.”
Organizers and supporters of the memorial include Republic Bank & Trust, Moore Funeral and Cremation, Havenbrook Funeral Home, Moore Public Schools, Moore Public Schools Foundation, Levant Technologies, Trifecta Communications and Boldt.
For information about the Plaza Towers 7 Memorial or to donate, go online to plazatowers7.org.
Parker writes for the Norman Transcript.