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Memorial Unveiled for Train Tragedy Victims, Veterans

Heroes Plaza will be constructed at A St. & Scharbauer Dr.
Plans for a permanent memorial to honor the victims of the Midland train tragedy were revealed Monday.

The site will be called Heroes Plaza and it will honor the four veterans killed in the train crash as well as veterans from all conflicts.

Terry Johnson, founder of Show of Support said, "Heroes Plaza is going to be anchored by the four we lost last year but it's going to honor all the heroes in wars."

During last year's Hunt for Heroes parade, four veterans were killed when a train crashed into their float.

"Worst words I've ever heard in my life is, 'We have casualties," Johnson said. "I'll never forget that ringing in my ears."

Now, one year later, many of the veterans who came for last year's event are returning to Midland.

They will help dedicate the grounds at the corner of A Street and Scharbauer Drive during a luncheon in their honor on Thursday.

"We want them to see it. We want their blessings on it," Johnson said.

Midland Architect Gary Vandergriff of Vandergriff Group Architects donated the time to design the project. 

Each year the anniversary will be marked in a unique way.

"We positioned a portal on a west-facing wall that will put a beam of natural light on a mark on the pavement that will be a reminder at the specific time and date on an annualized basis," Vandergriff said.

The light will shine through each November 15 at precisely 4:36 PM - the exact time of the tragedy.

"We hope we've represented their thoughts and wishes through architecture here in this plaza," Vandergriff said. 

There will also be a bronze sculpture from Texas artist Bruce Green. His daughter was on the first float of the parade. Johnson said Green called him after the tragedy and asked if he could help with a memorial.

Midland County Judge Mike Bradford said there are several veteran memorial plaques from the old courthouse building that will be displayed in Heroes Plaza.

"When it comes together it will be a place of meditation, reflection, pay your thanks, sit quietly, whatever you want to do to thank those that have provided freedom," said Judge Bradford.

Nineteen men will take part in this weekend's hunt. Sixteen are returning veterans from last year's event, two are new to the Hunt for Heroes program. The 19th young man taking part in the hunt is the teenage son of Sgt. Joshua Michael. Sgt. Michael died in last year's parade crash.

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