Ohio art teacher's painting being displayed at Pentagon

By MALIA RULON, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) - An Ohio math teacher thought the best way to illustrate America's determination to wage a war against terrorism would be to show a firefighter handing an American flag to a soldier.
An e-mail of the image a colleague drew was sent to the school board. Now, more than two years since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the artwork has appeared on numerous veterans Web sites, T-shirts and coffee mugs.
On Thursday, an oil painting of the image, called "I'll take it from here," went on permanent display at the Army Operations Center in the Pentagon.
"I was so moved by all the firemen rushing in and just their bravery. Also, there was a sense that there was going to be some strong repercussions," said Tom Hernan, who teaches math to 10th and 11th graders at Madison High School. "The idea was to tie the two together."
But Hernan couldn't draw, so he asked art teacher Jeff Grier to help him put the idea on paper so they could print T-shirts and raise money to help the families of American soldiers.
Grier, 32, who grew up drawing cartoons and now teaches art at Madison High, took up Hernan's challenge. He drew the first draft of the image in pencil on scratch paper while sitting at his kitchen table in Denmark Township near Madison in northeast Ohio.
Grier's black and white sketch shows a firefighter emerging from a pile of rubble and handing an American flag to a soldier. The background shows the New York City skyline, including the World Trade Center towers, and military aircraft.
"I like it a lot because of the way it was done. It's not a photograph, it was drawn," said Kathy Porter, a grandmother from Aurora, Minn., who put the image up on her personal Web site. "It just drew my eye because it was drawn from the heart. I could just see that."
Porter, 45, said she did not know who drew the image, which was e-mailed to her by more than a dozen people. The picture stood out because it captured the emotions and drama of what happened, Porter said.
"It made me cry," she said. "You look at it and ... Whoosh. I'm very patriotic."
Another Web site offers T-shirts, baseball caps, coffee mugs, clocks and bumper stickers for sale with the image. It's even rumored that some soldiers have had it tattooed on their arm.
Some Web sites attribute the picture to an unidentified soldier preparing to be deployed in Afghanistan or to a retired Vietnam veteran. Grier, who copyrighted the picture in December 2001, chuckles at the mystery.
"It's fascinating. You know if I had tried to plan something with this kind of publicity, it would never have happened," he said. "It really did touch a nerve with people and that's all I could hope for."
Grier allows people to use his image as long as any proceeds earned are donated to American troops or their families. He and Hernan made 3,000 T-shirts, which they gave away or sold for $10 each. They donated $14,000 in profits to a group that helps family members and surviving spouses of a special forces unit based at Fort Campbell, Ky.
"It's like what the president is talking about, everyone pitching in and doing their part," said Rep. Steve LaTourette, a Republican from Madison.
LaTourette, who helped Defense Department officials get in touch with Grier, has a copy of the drawing hanging in his Washington office and a T-shirt folded in his closet.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)