In a few ways, the John C. O’Renick Park is witness to the power of small things.
The new space at Sterling and Kentucky avenues in Sugar Creek isn’t visually loud or distracting, which is good as the park will soon stand at the cusp of a key route from Sugar Creek to east Kansas City called the Lewis and Clark Expressway. The newly finished first leg – an extension of Sterling Avenue – rests before the park.
The park rewards closer inspection for those who walk the paved path into the circle of four glass panes etched with time stamps from early in the workday, a quartet of moments circumscribing a few brief hours during which the nation stood still.
All the park’s elements center around a gnarled piece of reddish metal, one of the surviving fragments of the demolished twin towers destroyed on Sept. 11, 2001.
“Let this stand as a testament to those who we lost, and a reminder to stand with what’s right,” the park’s namesake, former Sugar Creek mayor John O’Renick, said during the park’s official dedication Thursday.
Along with those messages, the park is also an homage to O’Renick’s public service, work which was lauded by a battery of current and former administrators including retired Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Jack Gant.
Gant and O’Renick were peers before they were colleagues managing successful careers in public service.
The former judge noted acerbically that no one expected much from the youth growing up on their side of town.
“We’ve kind of shown them up, I think,” Gant said.
Gant spoke highly of O’Renick’s work leading Sugar Creek through the disappearence of Standard Oil and Sheffield Steel, two of the city residents’ major employers.
“Used to be that, if you could get in there, you were set for life,” Gant said. “But this city survived because of the work of Jack.”
Gant’s almost 30 years of public service culminated in laying the foundation for the Lewis and Clark Expressway.
“We’re standing here on the start of a project that’s the direct result of Jack’s work,” Ron Martinovich, Sugar Creek city administrator, said.
And, while one side of the park looks forward, the other looks steadfastly in the other direction.
A pentagonal marker denotes the other primary target of the 9/11 attacks. A slab of granite holds a marker for each of the 2,997 victims.
It’s a piece of the past, but O’Renick argued that it’s a vibrant historical moment, a cultural memory that’s worth handing down.
“Bring your children here. I encourage you all to bring them and tell them this story,” O’Renick said.
The former mayor was honored by a battery of former and current representatives as well as Missouri state Rep. John Mayfield, who presented O’Renick with a plaque bearing a resolution the state legislature ratified honoring the former mayor’s work.