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Rise of Freedom

Ballpark Angel is Memorial to Girl Born on 9/11 Who Was Killed in Arizona Shooting

As efforts are under way in New York City to build a permanent memorial to the lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001, a tribute to a life that started that day has risen in Arizona. 

A statue of an angel now stands watch over a Little League ballpark in Oro Valley, Ariz., where Christina-Taylor Green was once the only girl on her baseball team. 

"I remember she started out 0-and-4, 0-and-5, I think, and she says, 'Dad - when are we gonna win?'" said John Green at the statue's dedication ceremony. 

The angel is a testament to a smart and feisty little girl, whose life was book-ended by tragedy. 

Christina was born the afternoon of Sept. 11, 2001. Nine years later, she was shot and killed on Jan. 8 when Jared Loughner allegedly opened fired at a Tucson political event  that left six dead and Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords shot in the head and clinging to life. 

To honor Christina's short life, artist Lei Hennessy-Owen created a statue of an angel she calls "Freedom's Steadfast Angel of Love." It stands a symbolic 9-feet, 11-inches tall and incorporates artifacts from all three Sept.11 crash sites. 

A piece of twisted steel taken from the remains of the World Trade Center's Twin Towers sits at the angel's feet and holds various pieces of metal donated by the Pentagon. The angel is flanked by two huge rocks dug from a field not far from where Flight 93 crashed in Shanksville, Pa. 

"The design was created, originally, as I was thinking about the fear that children were feeling," says Hennessy-Owen, thinking back to Sept. 11. "So, I wanted her to look like she belonged with children." 

Hennessy-Owen had the angel's silhouette cut by Pennsylvania steel workers. She called contacts at the Pentagon and The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to obtain steel from the two sites. The artist and a team of helpers, including members of the FDNY, drove the angel across the country for six days. 

They were all on hand for Friday's dedication ceremony at the Little League field, including Christina's teammates, who were wearing new patches on their uniform sleeves depicting the Twin Towers, an American flag, Christina's initials, her birth date and death date.

During the ceremony Christina's father read a poem he wrote about his daughter: 

"Christina-Taylor Green, out of tragedy and chaos came your hopes and dreams. 

9-11 was not enough it seems. 

Your big brown eyes and angelic smile made the world a better place, even for a while. 

Please come by to visit us and say hello. It goes without saying we miss you so. 

I wish I could tell you, I love you, that you'll be all right. 

God needed you more, we didn't win that fight. 

Your family will miss you, your friends, and country, too. You are an inspiration to us all. 

We're so proud of you.”

Green says Christina was born at a Pennsylvania hospital, just a few hours drive from where Flight 93 crashed in Shanksville.

"Roxanna was in the hospital that day and they actually asked her to be ready to move, right after she had Christina, in case there were casualties that had to come in to the hospital," Green remembered. 

The family later moved to Arizona, but he says that Christina never let the events of Sept. 11 overshadow her life and used to tell people she was born on a holiday. 

"That was her birthday. Every year on her birthday she would see the American flag, people supporting each other, presidents talking about what it meant to be an American, and what it was to work together," says Green.  "For a 9-year-old girl, she had an advanced idea about the sense of community and caring for others. I think 9/11 had a bit to do with that." 

She built on that sense of community until the day she died. On that day, Christina, who had just recently been elected to her student council, had gone to meet Giffords, who was speaking with constituents outside a supermarket.

Her life will be remembered by the angel at the Arizona ballpark, but it isn't the only memorial to Christina.  The playing field was also renamed "Green Field," in honor of the little girl who once played second base there. 

"I think it will be really a fitting spot," Hennessey-Owen says. "I'm just hoping that they remember Christina." 

 

 

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