A local doctor is giving a gift to the city of New Orleans. The statue is a tribute to a new group of New Orleanians who came to the city in our time of need.
It's a day many years in the making, that brings an emotional tear to Dr. Juan Gershanik's eyes.
"I thought this will be the message that I need to have, that this will be something that the children for generations to come," he said.
Retired neonatologist Dr. Gershanik doesn't like to focus on how he rescued his patients, premature babies from flooded Baptist Hospital after Hurricane Katrina, giving precious oxygen on their helicopter trips to safety in Baton Rouge. He rather talk about the many Hispanics who came to the Crescent City after the storm in 2005, working long hours, in the hot sun, for low pay, rebuilding our homes.
When he was mentoring in local public schools, he could sense the Hispanic children felt construction and cleaning jobs were inferior.
"And I couldn't believe it, they were saying that and tried to imply. (And I said) 'Guys, thank you to your relatives and so many others, we got our town back,'" said Dr. Gershanik.
So he commissioned a bronze and solid marble statue as a tribute, thanking Latin American workers for reviving the city he loves. There were many revisions, sketches and models. Dr. Gershanik's wife Ana, insisted on including women's contributions. The Italian artist originally had shirtless men showing their muscles and strength. Dr. Gershanik wanted this to be real looking, even changing the faces to look Hispanic, the clothes to be similar to what workers were wearing and the woman's figure to be more 'G' rated.
The artist is proud of what his creation stands for.
"It mean a lot also for the subject too, because I believe too in the render homage to the people that really do hard work, and contribute so much to our community," said Franco Alessandrini.
A worker helping to set up the statue, came to the city three months after Katrina and stayed, making this his new home.
"I'm so glad because they do something for us," Santos Sajbin, originally from Guatemala, said about the new artwork.
"I think it make my life so much better. It's only America. Only American, New Orleans that can give this chance to a little boy from a small town in Argentina," said Dr. Gershanik about how blessed he feels living in New Orleans.
The public unveiling is Saturday at 4 p.m. at the end of Crescent Park in the Bywater.