A drawing shows the concept for a memorial for Bjorn Park called Tribute to Resilience to remember those impacted by the Sept. 16, 2019, LEAP building explosion. Contributed photo

FARMINGTON — A new memorial at Bjorn Park will pay tribute to those impacted by the Sept. 16, 2019, explosion at the LEAP building on Farmington Falls Road.

The memorial, called Tribute to Resilience, was unanimously approved by selectmen Tuesday night.

The explosion killed Farmington Fire Rescue Captain Michael Bell, injured six other firefighters and LEAP’s maintenance supervisor Larry Lord, and displaced several families.

“The proposed tribute has gone through many names. It basically is going to be a set of bells made out of fire extinguishers,” John Nichols said. It will resemble an old-time fire house, he added.

“I came up with the idea last year and presented it to United Way,” Vera Johnson said. “They granted funds for the project.”

At the June 9 selectmen meeting, Town Manager Richard Davis presented Johnson’s idea. A $10,000 grant to create the sculpture had been provided by the United Way of the Tri-Valley Area LEAP Explosion Fund. Fire Rescue Chief Terry Bell and Diana Bell, Michael Bell’s widow, were to meet with Johnson and discuss design options.

“It captures the resilience the community has demonstrated, what has taken place, all the different people, the first responders and general public,” Johnson said of the name Tribute to Resilience.

“The design concept changed to replicate something more architecturally similar to the fire department and something that would probably go better in the community for the looks of the park,” she added.

Darryl Wood, Susy Sanders, Nichols and Johnson have been working on the project.

“I was brought in to make sure LEAP would have a say, talk to Larry Lord,” Wood said. “My understanding is the Bjorn and Bell families were consulted about this. I think the name is a subtle reminder of what everybody went through, the town stands tall despite tragedy.”

Bjorn Park was named after Richard and Judy Bjorn, members of the community who helped finance construction of the park.

Plans are to have the tribute in place by Sept. 16, 2021.

Having the memorial tribute in place by this year would have been too rushed, Wood said.

“As people wander over and take a look, they can reflect on the community and what happened,” he said. “We’re just here to make sure you understand what we’re trying to do, get permission to move forward with this project.”

“I haven’t spoken with the Bjorn family, but (Selectman) Scott Landry said they were in support of the project,” Johnson said. “I had a very lovely conversation with Diana Bell. She had some input in how she would like to see the memorial be created.”

Terry Bell was invited to Bjorn Park to discuss the project.

“He helped guide us towards a different name, a different feel about the entire project,” Johnson said. “It was incredible.”

Construction is planned for spring, after the thaw, Nichols said when asked about the time frame.

“It’s not going to be a huge undertaking,” he said. “Basically it is posts with a roof and a small cupola on it. The reason for the cupola is to represent an old-styled firehouse.”

“We put up a placard giving a description of what’s to come, think we are going to kind of leave it plain. We did discuss allowing people to add memorabilia under the eaves of the roof,” Johnson said.

There will be no bell in the cupola, no glass, just open steel windows, Nichols said. Open rafters will allow other firefighters to put in a patch for the statewide support, he added.

The final dimensions will depend on the extinguishers used, Nichols said, but he thinks it will be 12 feet long and eight feet at the eaves, 10-12 feet at the top of the cupola and about three feet wide.

“As long as uncle Terry and aunt Diana are okay with it, I’m okay with it,” Selectman Joshua Bell said.

“I think it’s a wonderful thing,” Selectman Chairman Matthew Smith said.


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