From primitive practices of stacking stones in honor of ancestors to more recent traditions of engraved memorials, we have for centuries used stone as a way to honor our most important experiences and remember our lost loved ones. The solidity of stone comforts us when the temporary nature of our individual lives is made apparent by tragedy.
It is this deep and profoundly human need for permanence that led leadership at Children’s Hospital at Erlanger to commission monuments dedicated to the six children tragically lost in Chattanooga’s Woodmore bus crash of 2016.
“When Erlanger approached us about donating stone for the Woodmore memorial, it obviously wasn’t just another job,” said Patrick Wells, CEO of Majestic Stone. “As a father of two, I just wanted to make sure Majestic did whatever we could to help these families & Erlanger Hospital build something to preserve the memories of their children.”
The memorial consists of six pillars built of stacked cut stones sourced from Majestic’s Dayton, Tennessee, quarries. Each pillar is topped with a unique capstone chosen by the hospital.
“The stone from our quarry is literally part of our home,” Wells said. “We walk over it and live on it every day, and it’s the same ground that these kids lived and played on. It’s a way to connect our lives to theirs.”
Designing the memorials for the families was a particularly moving experience for Wells, himself a father of two.
“Obviously no one can truly comprehend what they’ve endured. Working with the team at Erlanger to design and select the stones has been such an honor. I really believe these stones connect us to each other.”
The memorial also serves to honor the ongoing work of the new Children’s Hospital Outpatient Center, a world-class facility designed to help Erlanger attract the best medical talent from around the world and place Chattanooga at the vanguard of pediatric care.
As the noble work of the doctors and families continues at the new Children’s Hospital, six unique pillars will quietly remind us all of something greater than ourselves.
“These pillars,” said Wells, “pointing toward the heavens, remind us of where to look when we’re lost. And where to find strength, when we feel pain. My hope is that these stacked stone memorials provide a sense of strength to the Woodmore families and to the many families that will visit Erlanger over the years to come.”
While nothing can ever truly heal the pain caused by the Woodmore bus crash of November 2016, we can at least touch the stones, feel their weight, and take some comfort in the memories they will share with generations to come.
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