CASEY, Ill. (WTHI) – This Sunday marks the 15th anniversary of the September 11th attacks. Our thoughts turn to those who tragically lost their lives.
That day holds a special place in the hearts of many loved ones, but it’s become something much greater for one Casey, Illinois man.
“Love thy neighbor” – One of the 10 commandments, and words Dan Smith has always lived by.
“I didn’t know any of them, but they were still my brothers and sisters,” Smith said as he read from a book of 3,000 names. “And it just shows what can happen in a moment’s notice. That somebody in this world hates us so much that they would want to destroy us, that just blows my mind.”
As a carpenter, Smith specializes in well-worn and weathered wood. Trying to make sense of it all, he put his hands and his heart to work.
“On the first anniversary, I ordered the lumber and started making crosses. My brothers and I, we started putting them together, painting them, and it’s kind of been a family effort,” said Smith.
With a cross for each victim, he transforms his rolling hillside. It’s a tedious undertaking which requires days spent outside.
“But it only took us an hour this year,” said Smith.
In 2015, Smith was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. The survival rate, only eight percent.
“I mentioned it to my wife that maybe we just won’t do it this year, and she said, ‘I think you ought to,’” said Smith, who continues to beat the odds.
The community took a page from Smith’s book of life lessons.
“A lot of people came, and some of them probably didn’t put many crosses up, but they were part of it.”
Part of a memorial that is certainly a sight to behold, and more than Smith could have ever imagined.
“I never dreamed it would last this long, and I would hope it would be something the next generation will do.”
Visitors are encouraged to stop by and walk through the memorial. The crosses will be on display at 3468 East Washington Road in Casey, Illinois through September.