Growing up, Omar E. Torres used to visit the Archer Heights branch of the Chicago Public Library on the southwest side near Midway Airport.
“We still live in the same house he grew up in. The original library was two or three blocks farther down,” his mother, Doris said.
On Sept. 11, 2001, Omar was a student at De La Salle Institute in Chicago. The terrorist attacks that shook the nation also shook Omar.
“He wanted to go into the military. I said no. I wanted him to graduate high school, go to college. My husband and I didn’t want him to be in the military,” Doris said.
After graduating high school, Omar attended Ohio State University, and while still in school Omar decided to enlist in the Army Reserves. Although his commanding officer denied his request to be sent overseas, Omar fought it and was deployed to Iraq.
Omar died there in August 2007 at the age of 20.
His hand-drawn image is just one of several displayed on a new memorial dedicated to fallen military personnel from Illinois at his neighborhood library.
“He wanted to go overseas because he felt so strongly that he could change the future,” Doris Torres said of her son. “He felt every person can make a difference in the world if they only try.”
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn was on hand to dedicate the memorial.
“Each of the service members who have given their lives for our country, who have come from our state of Illinois, who were alive 11 years ago and now today have passed — they are always in our memory and always in our hearts,” Quinn said.
“They understood that service to others is the rent we pay for our place on God’s earth.”
The event was held as Chicago is in the midst of a heated public school teachers strike. Doris Torres is also on strike in solidarity with teachers as administrative support staff. Yet on this day, Torres wanted to talk not about striking teachers but the victims of Sept. 11.
“I work for the Chicago Public School system. I am wearing red to support my teachers but this memorial is for the fallen. This memorial is to educate our students, our kids who come to the libraries to reinforce the history of our country, past, current and future,” Doris said. “That’s why we are here.”