By Ron Marasco
Eleven years ago changed our country. We don't quite see things the same. We're stronger for it, all the while thanking those who showed great courage in the face of incredible adversity: our firefighters.
Jean Cleere lost her husband Jim on 9/11. He was killed when one of the twin towers came crashing down. He was the only Iowa resident who died in the attacks.
"It reminds me of how Jim died, which is very sad," said Cleere. "But I have a strong faith, so I can get through that."
Cleere also shows great faith in our firefighters, who helped Jim to the very end. She spearheaded a movement to erect a memorial in front of Newton's main fire station.
"This is about firefighters, and we have a tribute to all firefighters, those deceased and living," said Cleere.
"Every time I see something like this, it just renews that spirit that people have for firefighters and for public safety people," said Newton Fire Chief Jarrod Wellik. "It's just touching to see this kind of turnout."
"I love the firefighters," said former firefighter Glen Oswalt. "Doesn't make any difference if it is Newton, Iowa or New York."
Hundreds gathered in Newton to pay tribute to our men and women who put themselves in harm's way every day. When Jean and others unveiled the statue, emotions flowed.
"Oh, I cried," said Newton resident Mel Wilson. "It's beautiful, and you know, it's fitting. It's...it's great."
"He's (sculptor Nick Klepinger) captured the very essence that is firefighters saving lives," said Newton resident Lonnie Appleby.
"I thought it was great," said a choked-up Oswalt. "Made me think of a lot of old buddies."
"Jean Cleere's license plate says it best," said Appleby. "'Never forget', and we never will, and thanks to this sculpture, how can we?"
Jim Cleere was on business in New York City for Marsh and McLennan. He left behind two older children and one stepchild. He was 55 years-old when he died.