Some may be moved by the look in the woman’s eyes as she hands over her tiny child. The look reveals that she is frightened and desperate.

Near her is a young girl whose own life is in danger because she breaking the law by helping the woman and her family.

The chaos and urgency felt by the people on the little boat as they are getting ready to cross the Niagara River comes alive in a monument to be unveiled at 7 p.m. today in the Village of Lewiston.

“I think the monument is breathtaking,” said Lee Simonson, a volunteer and board member of the Historical Association of Lewiston who conceived the idea several years ago.

Simonson’s vision was created in bronze by Youngstown sculptor Susan Geissler, who has had work installed in several other locations across the country including 10-foot bronzes of Spartans for San Jose State, and one of an old man enjoying nature in three different parks in Wyoming and Colorado. Another of her works depicting a teacher and two students is placed at a library in Oklahoma City.

Geissler’s “Freedom Crossing” monument, which has already been installed at Lewiston Landing, depicts a scene from a book of the same name, written by Lewiston resident Margaret Goff Clark, who is now deceased.

In the book Laura Eastman, the main character, moves to Lewiston from the south and cannot understand why her family is helping slaves gain their freedom. As the chapters progress and she learns about the concept of liberty, she becomes a heroine herself in a manner depicted by the new monument. She is shown helping a family into a boat with and real life leader of the Lewiston Underground Railroad, Josiah Tryon.

“Freedom Crossing’ basically put Lewiston on the map,” said Simonson. “It’s required reading for fourth- and fifth-graders across the country.”

The monument Geissler has created from the book is very different from much of her other work, which typically relays more joyful expressions, like a child catching rain in his mouth or a maestro directing a stream of music.

The “Freedom Crossing” recreates much more frightening images and the work intruded into her dreams as she attempt to breath life into her subjects.

“I just tried to imagine what it was like to be a slave or a person helping a slave ... I felt their fear,” she said.

Some have remarked about the monuments extraordinary precision. “The detail is phenomenal,” said Pam Hauth, director of the historical association. “The buttons on Laura Eastman's coat have threads in the hole.”

Geissler’s attention to detail has help to spread her reputation beyond American borders, according to Hauth. She noted that an area historian was in Normandy, France, this summer and learned that the artist’s work was known by an art gallery director there. “I thought that was amazing,” Hauth said.

When asked what people should expect of the monument, Hauth said they should “expect to be moved.”

The $230,000 price tag for the monument was covered by a variety of sources including money from the Niagara River Greenway Commission funded through the Town of Lewiston. Other funds came from the Village of Lewiston, and the Margaret R. Wendt and Key Bank foundations, according to Simonson.

The project was about three years in the making with the assistance of many, he said, noting “We knew we wanted to better appreciate and understand our local history ... Lewiston had a story to tell and what better way to tell it than with a monument?”

“I’m calling this New York state’s second Statue of Liberty,” Simonson added.

For Geissler, who has created pieces for so many other communities, it’s an opportunity to see how friends and neighbors respond to her work. The monument is right down the road from her Youngstown studio and she has visited it every day since it was installed at the site.

“I find myself with a grin,” she said. “I'm very happy with it.”

The monument will be revealed at 7 p.m. tonight after a dramatic reenactment featuring local actor Tim Henderson in the role of Josiah Tryon. The daughter of Margaret Goff Clark, the author of “Freedom Crossing,” and Lezlie Harper Wells, a descendent of freedom seekers, will address the community along with local dignitaries.

Those who are unable to attend tonight’s ceremony can watch a live video Web cast available at historiclewiston.org. An audiocast can also be accessed by calling 641-594-7000 and using the passcode 925-2124#. More information about the event can be obtained by calling the Historic Association of Lewiston at 754-4214.

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