Greeson: Erlanger's silent stone tribute to Woodmore Elementary bus crash victims a success

Greeson: Erlanger's silent stone tribute to Woodmore Elementary bus crash victims a success

December 6th, 2018 by Jay Greeson in Opinion Columns

Outside the entrance to the new Children's Hospital at Erlanger, Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke looks over the stacked stone monuments to the Woodmore Elementary School children who died in a school bus accident in 2016.

Photo by Kathleen Greeson

Outside of what soon will be one of our biggest sources of public pride, there was a private moment of tribute Tuesday evening.

The magnificent Kennedy Outpatient Center for Children on the Erlanger campus downtown was the site of an emotional moment.

Yes, the public will be able to see on Sunday the swanky design and artworks donated from families, artists, among others of the 6,000 individuals who contributed to this project. Yes, the leadership at Erlanger believes this facility will be the gift that serves our region's children for the next quarter century and beyond.

Yes, this is the kind of project that brings hundreds of jobs — if not more — directly and indirectly as well as delivering a true boost to the quality of life for many across the Tri-State area.

Yes, there was a media tour Tuesday. But there was one event that was not open to the public, one that paid solemn tribute to one of the great tragedies in our community. The decision to keep this event low-key was calculated — and appropriate.

A gathering of about 50 people met to look over stone memorials to the Woodmore Elementary School students who were killed in a bus crash two years ago. The stone memorials are just outside the Kennedy Outpatient Center, and family members of the kids who died in the tragedy read the inscriptions.

Children's Hospital CEO Don Mueller noted that Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke insisted that some form of tribute to the Woodmore students be included when the city agreed to send funds to the project.

Jay Greeson

Jay Greeson

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.

"We listened to the community to build this building," Mueller told the TFP's Elizabeth Fite about the interior and the architecture of the newest health care facility that opens for business on Dec. 17. "So many people have had their fingerprints on it. I hope everyone who walks through can see they contributed in some way."

The mayor was among the crowd that watched as the six pillars of six stones were introduced for each of the six young kids who died. There's one more memorial stone detailing the display — the 37 total stones matched the number of students on the bus.

"We wanted to do something to pay tribute to those kids," said Bruce Komiske, vice president of new hospital design and construction. "We talked with Majestic Stone and they had some great ideas.

"We knew it was going to be a private, intimate affair and the mayor did a great job. It was a somber event but it also was a sweet tribute."

A state-of-the-art facility like the Kennedy Outpatient Center can never guarantee another tragedy like Woodmore will not happen again. It can, however, give our community a better chance to serve our injured, sick, and in-pain young, and that's a great thing.

"I think this is an important part of how this has been built by our community for our community," said Mueller, who was in Erlanger as the injured Woodmore kids were being brought in and treated. "The Woodmore bus tragedy will forever be a part of this community, and it will resonate in this community not unlike the billboards and reminders of the Fallen Five.

"And when kids ask their parents about these stones, those kids at Woodmore will never be forgotten."

So may those dedicated stones make us forever remember the purpose of this facility and remind us that doing everything we can to care for our children is the noblest of pursuits.

Whether the media is there or not.

Contact Jay Greeson at jgreeson@timesfreepress.com and 423-757-6343.

Getting Started/Comments Policy

Getting started

  1. 1. If you frequently comment on news websites then you may already have a Disqus account. If so, click the "Login" button at the top right of the comment widget and choose whether you'd rather log in with Facebook, Twitter, Google, or a Disqus account.
  2. 2. If you've forgotten your password, Disqus will email you a link that will allow you to create a new one. Easy!
  3. 3. If you're not a member yet, Disqus will go ahead and register you. It's seamless and takes about 10 seconds.
  4. 4. To register, either go through the login process or just click in the box that says "join the discussion," type your comment, and either choose a social media platform to log you in or create a Disqus account with your email address.
  5. 5. If you use Twitter, Facebook or Google to log in, you will need to stay logged into that platform in order to comment. If you create a Disqus account instead, you'll need to remember your Disqus password. Either way, you can change your display name if you'd rather not show off your real name.
  6. 6. Don't be a huge jerk or do anything illegal, and you'll be fine.

Chattanooga Times Free Press Comments Policy

The Chattanooga Times Free Press web sites include interactive areas in which users can express opinions and share ideas and information. We cannot and do not monitor all of the material submitted to the website. Additionally, we do not control, and are not responsible for, content submitted by users. By using the web sites, you may be exposed to content that you may find offensive, indecent, inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise objectionable. You agree that you must evaluate, and bear all risks associated with, the use of the Times Free Press web sites and any content on the Times Free Press web sites, including, but not limited to, whether you should rely on such content. Notwithstanding the foregoing, you acknowledge that we shall have the right (but not the obligation) to review any content that you have submitted to the Times Free Press, and to reject, delete, disable, or remove any content that we determine, in our sole discretion, (a) does not comply with the terms and conditions of this agreement; (b) might violate any law, infringe upon the rights of third parties, or subject us to liability for any reason; or (c) might adversely affect our public image, reputation or goodwill. Moreover, we reserve the right to reject, delete, disable, or remove any content at any time, for the reasons set forth above, for any other reason, or for no reason. If you believe that any content on any of the Times Free Press websites infringes upon any copyrights that you own, please contact us pursuant to the procedures outlined in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (Title 17 U.S.C. § 512) at the following address:

Copyright Agent
The Chattanooga Times Free Press
400 East 11th Street
Chattanooga, TN 37403
Phone: 423-757-6315
Email: webeditor@timesfreepress.com