Butler artist helps Flight 93 memorial
Butler artist Willie F. Hobbs, right, and his painting that will be part of the Flight 93 Memorial at Shanksville. Butler County Commisionier Dale Pinkerton, who helped campaign to get the painting included in the memorial, is on the left.
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Inspiration struck artist Willie Hobbs right after a conversation with his cousin.
In 2004, Mr. Hobbs' cousin, a United Airlines employee, spoke to him about his experience on Sept. 11, 2001, and the pair discussed the heroic story of Flight 93.
Then Mr. Hobbs went to work on his painting, "Rest Assured." "When it hits you, you just gotta do it," he said. "It just happens."
Mr. Hobbs, an Army veteran who lives in Butler, spent more than two months on the painting. He said he thought of the victims' families as he painted.
Now Mr. Hobbs' work may help those families in a way he never considered when he began the project.
Mr. Hobbs and Butler County Commissioner Dale Pinkerton have registered the painting with the Flight 93 National Memorial Campaign's "Make a Difference" program. Mr. Hobbs will begin selling prints of the painting, as well as mugs and T-shirts that feature the painting, in mid-September. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to help fund the construction of a new Flight 93 memorial in Shanksville. When construction is completed, the painting will be displayed at the memorial.
Mr. Hobbs said the painting is very symbolic. It depicts an eagle, flying out of the craft with a tattered U.S. flag in one of its talons and a scroll in the other. On the scroll, Mr. Hobbs printed every victim's name.
Two large hands cradle the eagle, representing the hands of God, Mr. Hobbs said.
"I looked at the tragedy, and what I had in my mind, I wanted to put it on paper," Mr. Hobbs said. "I wanted it to make sense. I wanted people to look at it and understand. I don't do abstract.
"I think it turned out better than what I had to begin with."
Mr. Pinkerton, who attends church with Mr. Hobbs, first campaigned to register "Rest Assured" with the memorial fund. His office received letters of support from Gov. Ed Rendell, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey and state Sens. Jane Orie, R-McCandless, and Mary Jo White, R-Venango.
The painting currently hangs in the Butler County commissioner's office. It will be displayed Sept. 13 at the Butler Fall Festival, where Mr. Hobbs hopes to begin selling his prints, mugs and T-shirts.
This is not Mr. Hobbs' first effort to sell his art for a charitable cause. Last fall, he sold prints of his portrait of Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin to help raise money for Nothing But Nets, an organization that donates mosquito nets to impoverished African villages.
Mr. Hobbs contributed about $1,000 to the Nothing But Nets campaign, but he does not have any set amount he hopes to contribute from the "Rest Assured" sales.
What's more important, he said, was reaching the families of the victims. He said he plans to be at the Flight 93 memorial on Sept. 11 but he doesn't know if any family members will attend the ceremony.
"Even if I don't sell a lot of prints, if the families of those victims, who went through a lot, see my painting and believe that the victims are in God's hands now, that they're safe ... that's good enough for me."
To buy a print of "Rest Assured," visit www.restassuredart.com.
First Published August 31, 2008 12:00 am