A memorial to honor the sacrifices and dedication of Montgomery County police officers, firefighters and other public safety personnel is moving closer to fruition.
The county has budgeted $100,000 for the project, and officials on the committee that is raising private funds for the memorial said they are getting close to meeting their goal.
"We have catapulted ourselves over the last several months," Montgomery Fire and Rescue division chief Richie Bowers said in a recent interview, citing a flurry of corporate donations and a recent benefit concert by Grammy-winning singer Roberta Flack. "We've made a substantial amount of money, but we're not at our mark. At best, we might be halfway there."
He said he did not have an exact amount because the committee has not finished tallying recent donations.
Bowers said the committee intends to raise as much as $200,000 for the project, which is expected to break ground in a year or two, to coincide with the renovation of the county's Public Safety Training Academy. The academy, at 9710 Great Seneca Hwy. in Rockville, is where beginning public safety personnel are initially trained.
For nearly a decade, county officials have contemplated building a memorial to honor the area's fallen public service personnel, as well as their surviving colleagues. Only recently, however, have officials obtained financial support from the county, Bowers said.
He said the memorial will be unusual because it will honor employees from five agencies. The memorial will consist of five identical, low-curved, gray granite walls in a plaza.
Each wall will represent one agency. The memorial will honor employees from the county's police, fire and rescue, and corrections departments, the sheriff's office and the U.S. Park Police.
The memorial will include the flag of each department, as well the county, state and national flags. The flags will be lighted at night.
Boston artist Ted Clausen, the memorial's designer, sought inspiration for the project by interviewing several veterans from the county's public safety agencies. He said he found that many public safety professionals in the county believe that citizens do not fully appreciate the work they do.
"There was a universal sense that the public didn't know what they did," Clausen said.
When he asked them to talk about colleagues from other agencies, the tone changed. "The sense of admiration that each group had for another was pretty impressive," he said.
Clausen's work generally combines words with visual art. For the Montgomery memorial, he said he will select quotes from his interviews with public safety professionals.
"They were intimate, searing, oftentimes funny," Clausen said. "I didn't know police work was so difficult."
One public safety employee who probably will be quoted, Clausen said, offered the artist this insight into the work of a sheriff's deputy.
"Underneath this sheriff's uniform is a mother with a sick kid, leaves that need to be raked and a clogged kitchen sink."
The memorial will include the names of every public safety employee who has died in the line of duty. Bowers estimated that 25 have made that sacrifice.
But those behind the memorial said they don't want it to be a somber place.
"It should be a living and breathing thing, not just a plot," said Theresa A. Cameron, executive director of the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County, which has been involved in the project.
"It needed to be something that could be used for ceremonies, as well."