Monument to Red Cross heroes unveiled in Panama

Publié: 13 août 2013 16:32 CET

Enrique Guevara in Colón, Panama

Under a bright sun and scattered clouds, staff and volunteers from the Red Cross Society of Panama, as well as representatives of the Norberto Odebretch company, gathered at the Curva del Sebo on the road to Colón to inaugurate the new stretch of road and a monument to the rescuers who lost their lives there almost a year ago.

Jorge Alemán and Fernando Johnson lost their lives when the road, on which they were traveling with a group of volunteers, collapsed and was covered by a land- and mudslide. In a final act of heroism, Alemán and Johnson ordered the volunteers to jump from the truck bed, saving their lives. The search and rescue operation engaged Red Cross teams from Panama, Mexico, Colombia and Costa Rica, who came to the aid of their teammates and worked hand in hand with the Odebrecht company and the Ministry of Public Works, who provided the heavy equipment for the operation.

The President of the Red Cross of Panama, Jaime Fernandez, expressed his deep appreciation for the work done building the beautiful monument to honor the volunteers and Jorge Alemán and Fernando Johnson. "Today is a day of mixed feelings. Today, there is a safe road open to Odebrecht colleagues, as well as this monument, which will serve forever to remind us of these two colleagues and their enormous sacrifice.” Recalling the incident, Fernandez mentioned that just before Jorge and Fernando, together with the volunteers, had passed through the area, there had been two buses, which could have meant a greater misfortune.

"Jorge had already transcended the borders of our country as an emergency responder, beloved by all his brothers and sisters in Red Cross societies from Canada to Panama. And Fernando was on the same path, but unfortunately they were in the wrong place at the wrong time,” said Fernandez.

"On behalf of the Red Cross Society of Panama, I sincerely thank everyone for your support, and I trust that you will continue to support your Red Cross”, concluded Fernandez.
Following his opening remarks, Fernandez inaugurated the monument, along with the families of Jorge Alemán and Fernando Johnson, who unveiled the structure to the background wailing of Red Cross ambulance sirens, paying tribute to the memory the two men.

About the monument

Inspired by a phrase attributed to Henry Dunant, founder of the International Red Cross: "In the midst of pain, disease and war, the Red Cross has been a bulwark of peace and emergency relief for mankind."

The monument, made of steel and measuring 9 metres high, is formed of two crosses representing Johnson and Alemán, national heroes who gave their lives trying to save others. They proudly wore the emblem of the Red Cross.

The three nails through the sculpture represent pain, disease and war. The dove’s wings symbolize peace and emergency humanitarian relief.