Local teachers' artwork hangs in national 9/11 museum

MADISON -- Alongside all of the artifacts in the new 9/11 Memorial Museum in New York City hangs a painting that originated in Northeast Ohio.

The drawing is not by a famous artist or even anyone directly impacted by September 11 but by two local teachers who just wanted to do something, and now they're being honored for their efforts still 13 years later.

"We didn't serve. We didn't go see action," Madison High School art teacher Jeff Grier said. "We weren't there. We did what we did, and it came together very nicely."

The duo collaborated on the drawing titled "I'll take it from here," one of the most iconic images to come from the tragedy of 9/11

Madison High School math teacher Tom Hernan was at his dad's funeral when the news broke about the attack. Grieving and watching the first responders all day, the idea came to him, but he draws geometry figures, so he went to Grier to bring his inspiration to life.

"Just to see those firefighters rushing into that building, and I said 'Our military will do the same thing,' " Hernan said.

He asked Grier to make a sketch, and he finished it just a few days after Sept. 11.

"It's not uplifting," Grier said. "It's not necessarily positive, but it's what represented what was going on at that time."

Their creation took off, first on T-shirts for a local fundraiser to honor military families. Without advertising or holding an event, they raised $15,000.

In 2003, the Pentagon called and asked the duo to dedicate a painting that would hang there for inspiration. The calls and letters didn't stop -- the painting hangs in military bases around the world, fire stations across the country and now, 13 years later, the 9/11 Memorial Museum.

"It will be very emotional to see it in a place like that, an image that 50 years from now, people will look at," Hernan said. "I'm really excited for my sons, because they did serve. They went in."

Hernan's father was also a World War II veteran. Both of the teachers say this painting helps remember and honor all the lives lost.

"It may seem like a political image, but it's not," Grier said. "It's honoring those who were most affected by that event and honoring them and recognizing their importance."

The teachers are getting a private tour of the museum this weekend in New York City.


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