By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
TAYLOR – “The Saluting Sailor,” John Charles Heidenreich, 55, of Romulus, created a stirring display on Eureka Road west of Racho Boulevard Sept. 11 to honor those lost to the terrorist attacks.
The display included flags, ornamentation and a wall of banners displaying the names of those who died on Sept. 11, 2001.
Heidenreich said he starting saluting roadside on Veterans Day 2014. He added Sept. 11 to his saluting schedule in 2018, and in 2019, he added Memorial Day.
“I do three events a year now,” he said.
Heidenreich said a YouTube video entitled “Project Vigil” provided the inspiration.
“It was an 11-year-old boy saluting in honor of D-Day,” he said. “He was saluting at Omaha Beach, in World War II fatigues with a 48-star flag, playing 1940s music, and I was really moved that somebody could do that at that age, and it inspired me to do something.”
Heidenreich said he started on Veterans Day, chose a busy location and it worked out.
“I was really nervous the first year, but as the years went by, I was able to stay longer, and I got more responses, and more people liked me and wanted to see me saluting,” he said. “So, I just kept at it.”
Heidenreich said the memorial wall, banners with the names of all the 9/11 victims, is a key part of the display, which he paid for mostly out-of-pocket, with some donations. He said Bubba’s 33, the restaurant adjacent to his outdoor tribute, raised funds to help.
“People like to honk and wave, and sometimes they salute me back,” he said. “I love visitors and seeing people look at the names. It’s a really great feeling.”
Heidenreich said he would just like people to remember 9/11.
“I feel, in general, we are quick to forget, and some of the younger generation doesn’t even know what Sept. 11 is, so if we can educate the younger generation, and if we can support and honor our veterans and remember special days in history, I’d be really happy.”
Joining him was sidewalk chalk artist Rebecca Lowe, 40, of Gibraltar, who said that when a day is near and dear to her heart, she likes to go out and create an artistic tribute.
“It is kind of my paying respect to the fallen,” she said. “I like to come out and just kind of put it down. It’s a way for me to almost grieve for the people that were lost.”
Lowe said it also makes her happy that people can come out and take a minute to enjoy what she creates.
She said she had just graduated from high school when 9/11 happened, and she remembers how surreal it felt.
“I used to live out by Metro Airport, and when they stopped flying all the planes, there wasn’t any sound, and that silence was a very real part of what was going on,” Lowe said.
She said she started doing sidewalk chalk art when the COVID-19 pandemic struck.
“I decided to use my talent and go out and make people feel good,” Lowe said. “I went out and did a test one, and somebody came out and said, ‘You know, that really made my day,’ and I was like, ‘I’ve got a purpose I’ve got to do.’ So, here we are.”
Lowe said that when she feels in her heart that her sidewalk art could serve a purpose, she will do it.
She is a photographer as well as a self-taught artist.
“I was born basically with Crayolas in my hand,” Lowe said. “I am so passionate about it and I am going to do it forever.”