A beautiful downtown mural in honor of fallen heroes has been uncloaked in Detroit, Michigan. The mural, which prominently features Detroit Fire Captain Franklin Williams, was painted on the wall facing his former workplace: Engine 44, Ladder 18.
The mural depicts Williams, the first Detroit firefighter to die from COVID, in a blue firefighter’s Class A uniform alongside images of Detroit first responders and front line workers.
According to reporting by The Detroit Free Press, “Other victims of COVID-19 honored on the mural alongside Williams include: Detroit Police Capt. Johnathan Parnell, whose picture sits on the sleeve of Williams’ jacket, the Detroit Department of Transportation’s Jason Hargrove, whose face appears driving a bus on the upper part of Williams’ lapel, and the 5-year-old daughter of two Detroit first responders, Skylar Herbert, who is shown as an angel flying out of a church in the mural.”
The mural was unveiled the day before Memorial Day to honor the memory of front-line workers who have died from COVID.
“This mural will stand as a permanent reminder of a man who stayed on the front lines to fight an invisible enemy” said Detroit Fire Commissioner Erick Jones at the unveiling on May 30. “Capt. Franklin Williams, along with the men and women of Engine 44, Ladder 18, chief eight, and the men and women of the Detroit Fire Department stayed on the front lines… Some of them became ill, some of them were hospitalized and Franklin made the ultimate sacrifice.”
The Detroit Free Press reports: “The Arabic American and Chaldean Council, or ACC, donated the right side of its adult comprehensive financial literacy and employment training facility for the large painting, to show their respect for the victims lost in the line of duty and to honor the memory of Williams, according to the organization’s chief operating officer, Odie Fakhouri. He said Memorial Day weekend was the perfect time to honor them.
“It is fitting we are gathered here today on Memorial Day weekend honoring those in uniform who fought for our country,” Fakhouri said during the ceremony. “This mural represents community heroes representing those institutions who also fought for our country by putting on a uniform and fighting an unknown enemy: COVID-19.”
The mural was completed with the help of architectural students from the University of Detroit Mercy and others who all volunteered their time. Well-known street muralist and Detroit native Chazz was asked to lead the creation of the project.
Before the mural was unveiled, family and friends of the victims gathered for a ceremony in front of the Engine 44 Fire Station, including Williams’ wife, Shanita Williams, and Skylar’s parents, Detroit firefighter Ebbie Herbert and Detroit Police Officer LaVondria Herbert.
“March 24, 2020, he got up at 3 o’clock in the morning and said to me, ‘I feel like I’m coming down with something, I’m going to go to the guest room,’” Shanita Williams said as tears rolled down both sides of her face. “That something was COVID-19 … and two weeks later he was gone and we’re here today.”
LaVondria Herbert used the ceremony to thank the community for the tribute to her daughter. “Whenever I come out to speak, the sun is always shining,” Herbert said. “My baby always shined, and I always said my baby was going to be a star anyway. And if she was here, her picture would be on a wall at some point, somewhere, shining for something she was known for.”
“So, I know that whenever we have something to do to honor her she is always here, because the sun is always shining,” she added.