Sioux City riverfront restoration

Sioux City worker Donna Sweet plants a hosta at the United Flight 232 Memorial in Chris Larsen Park in 2012 as part of the restoration after the 2011 Missouri River floods. The memorial, titled "Spirit of Siouxland" has been called a fitting tribute to the community's response to the crash of Flight 232.

Tim Hynds, Sioux City Journal

SIOUX CITY | Along the Missouri River stands a statue that marks one of the area's most notable days.

Large stones, each bearing a plaque with a quotation engraved upon it, lead up to the statue of a man cradling a little boy in his arms.

As many Siouxlanders know well, it's the re-creation of a photo that became a symbol of the crash of United Flight 232. Journal photographer Gary Anderson captured forever the image of Iowa Air National Guard Lt. Col. Dennis Nielsen carrying the injured Spencer Bailey away from the wreckage of the DC-10 at Sioux Gateway Airport.

The statue at the memorial is titled "Spirit of Siouxland." It couldn't be more fitting, said Gary Brown, the director of Woodbury County Disaster and Emergency Services then and now.

"Having 25 years to look at this thing and reflect on it, there was a big deal made at the time of the response to the crash," Brown said. "I've come to the conclusion that when you look at the community, you wouldn't expect anything less."

It would be nearly impossible to expect anything more than what the people of this region did that day.

Ambulance crews came from all over Siouxland. Medical personnel flocked to the city's two hospitals. A line of people waiting to donate blood at the blood bank stretched well beyond the front door and down the street.

Those efforts undoubtedly played a role in ensuring that 184 of the 296 people on board that plane survived.

That response, that spirit, left a lasting impression on Brown, and it springs immediately to mind when remembering the crash.

He also believes it was just one example -- a significant one, yes -- of what residents here do on a regular basis.

"I think what happened on July 19 symbolized the spirit of Siouxland in the decades leading up to the crash and in the 25 years since," Brown said. "The spirit of Siouxland was alive and well long before the crash, and it's been alive and well since."

Just look at what happens in Sioux City and the surrounding area on a regular basis.

In just the past three years, tornadoes have struck several local communities in Iowa and Nebraska. In every case, volunteers flocked to the scenes of damaged homes, helping people they didn't even know pick up and recover.

In 2011, Missouri River flooding devastated many homeowners in our area. Brown remembers that while preparing for the high waters, the call went out for help filling sandbags. It was hoped that 100 volunteers would show up. More than 500 did.

Look at all the fundraisers for local residents fighting cancer and other medical conditions. People turn out by the hundreds to help these families in their time of need.

"That stuff goes on every day in this community," Brown said.

It sometimes takes a monumental reminder -- a plane crash, a flood -- to remind us of that. It shouldn't have to.

Each of us can look inside our own neighborhood, our own community and should feel confident that there are dozens, maybe hundreds of people who would help us, even if they don't know us that well, or at all.

That's what that statue down by the river is all about.

Yes, it's a tribute to Siouxland at its best on one particular day 25 years ago.

But more than anything, it represents what the people in our communities do every day of the year.


Court reporter

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