Building a wall of hope at ground zero

This tile, created by Gerard Reheiser, is on display at Ground Zero. Mr. Reheiser is a firefighter at Dobbins Air Force Base, Ga. (U.S. Air Force photo)

This tile, created by Gerard Reheiser, is on display at Ground Zero. Mr. Reheiser is a firefighter at Dobbins Air Force Base, Ga. (U.S. Air Force photo)

DOBBINS AIR RESERVE BASE, Ga. -- Earlier this year, Dobbins Firefighter, Gerard Reheiser created a painting on a tile to commemorate 9/11. Mr. Reheiser entered that tile in a contest sponsored by Tiles for America at an Earth, Paint and Fire store in Woodstock, Ga. Little did he, know that the painting he had created would not only win the contest, but the tile would be displayed at ground zero as part of a permanent tribute to the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001 in New York City. 

"I did not have any expectations to win," said Mr. Reheiser. "I have a deep sense of remorse for the people who have died for this country, both military and civilian. I felt that creating a tile in memory of the brave firefighters and police officers who died on Sept. 11, 2001 was a way that I could contribute to their lasting memory." 

Reheiser has been painting and drawing pictures since he was very little. He has sold his artwork to individuals who have asked him to draw specific pictures in memory of their loved ones. 

"I love to create artwork and it is a passion of mine," said Mr. Reheiser. "I only create artwork that has meaning and this tile contest definitely had deep meaning. I take pride in what I do and hopefully the tile I created reminds people to never forget the tragedy of that day and remember the heroes that gave their lives to save other people." 

Mr. Reheiser pointed out that the tile included everything that he viewed was good and pure about the United States of America. From the flames of tragedy arose the Phoenix of the American will. Mr. Reheiser wanted it displayed in his tile that for that one day he felt the United Stated of America was truly united. He viewed this day as one where race, creed or color did not make a difference because we were Americans first. 

"At the time of Sept. 11, I was on active duty at Patrick Air Force Base, and I remember watching on television how people did not care about anything else except helping each other," said Mr. Reheiser. 

The contest included approximately 100 paint studios nationwide and Mr. Reheiser received a $50 gift certificate for winning the contest. Three tiles per store were sent to ground zero to place on the wall surrounding the property. Two of the tiles were created by the Earth, Paint and Fire store staff and included the names of 26 of the World Trade Center victims. The other tile was open to the public for the contest and judged by the store staff. 

"We chose Gerard's tile because it was absolutely fantastic," said Lisa Delosh, owner of Earth, Paint and Fire. "The amount of detail that went into a small six by six tile was incredible. He included so many different aspects that represented the total picture." 

Mr. Reheiser pointed out that the $50 gift certificate was not important to him, but the fact that he put his heart into this painting and it is going to be placed at ground zero is an honor that he will never forget. He also made it very clear that the primary reason for creating the tile was "in hope that Americans would read it and realize that it doesn't have to take a national tragedy to unite us and make us look past our imperfections. 
This is something that we should be doing every day of our lives."