Solana Beach is the latest stop in the journey of the “Traveling 911 Memorial Painting.”
On the 15th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the painting was unveiled at the Solana Beach Fire Station to honor first responders. The painting pictures a New York firefighter with his head in his hands, standing below a tattered American flag with the destruction of 9/11 in the background.
“I feel this pain and I know that I’ve locked it up for many years,” said Dr. Noemi Balinth, a first responder on 9/11 and the past president of the New York State Psychological Association.
“I think it’s really important to be a part of the community and share the human story behind this,” she added. “Each one of us that ends up in first line response know how to turn it off somewhat in order to help people. But we also internalize the face of this fireman and that’s the humanity in all of us. I hope that we never lose touch with that.”
Carlsbad artist Kelly Lucas was commissioned to paint and deliver the painting to New York to raise money for the families of the 9/11 fallen firefighters.
The painting raised more than $26,000 during an auction. The restaurateur who purchased it, however, said it made his customers too sad when he hung it in his restaurant. Still pleased with his donation, he decided to return it to the artist.
The artist then organized a fundraising event for Wounded Warriors in Encinitas. This time the painting was purchased by Wendy Moldow, a local Pacific Sotheby’s realtor, who decided to bring the painting to fire stations to pay tribute to first responders.
“This is ongoing,” Moldow said as she looked around at the city’s firefighters. “We need to remember our first responders because of what they do everyday. It is so important that we keep you guys in our hearts and in our minds.”
Before coming to Solana Beach, the 3-by-4-foot oil painting was originally displayed at Encinitas Fire Station No. 2 on Sept. 11, 2015. Since then, the painting has traveled to fire stations in San Marcos and Rancho Santa Fe.
“It doesn’t belong in my house,” Moldow said. “It belongs with our firefighters, our fire responders, our paramedics — the people that are there for us day in and day out. Hopefully, it will let them know that the community cares.”
The painting will be displayed at the Solana Beach Fire Station on Lomas Santa Fe Drive for the next three months. After the three months, Moldow said she will put the names of other fire stations into a firefighter helmet to choose where the painting is headed next in San Diego County.
“It’s very important for us to recognize the contributions of our first responders,” Solana Beach Mayor David Zito said. “This particular day’s events is so meaningful to our country and it is very, very critical that we keep it in our minds. Thank you for helping us honor this remembrance and acknowledge all the great contributions by our first responders.”