Graffiti Removal
Home Up Graffit2

First some background on what happened:

From the Miami Herald Posted on Sat, Jul. 16, 2005

Plans in works to restore desecrated memorial

A memorial for the victims of Miami-Dade County's worst plane crash was defaced last week. The Everglades memorial will be repaired.


The 109 obelisk-shaped stones rest on hallowed ground in the Everglades along Tamiami Trail as a poignant memorial to each person who perished aboard ValuJet Flight 592 almost a decade ago.

But the tragedy of that day was lost on whoever defaced the light gray stones -- each one representing a victim -- which form a triangle pointing north.

Some lettering in red spray paint is indecipherable. Three stones have swastikas sprayed on them. Eight others say ``Die.''

All 20 stones on the south side that overlook a canal have been scarred. So has the thin walkway that fills the structure's center. Police have no suspects.

This morning, though, thanks to a radio installer with Miami-Dade Fire Rescue, the stones will be restored to their original state. Ham radio operator Matt Ginn, 28, found out about the damage last week, then found the resources to make things better.

His job is extensive. The damage also reached the granite-like memorial board -- set back to the north toward the sawgrass -- that tells the story of the crash. It, along with the names of the 109 victims, was defaced as well.


''In memory of those who perished on ValuJet Flight 592 May 11, 1996,'' the stone reads. Next to it a white whiffle ball rests in a small plastic pot with plastic flowers. A faded pink teddy bear leans against it.

To restore the landmark, Ginn approached Lt. Grant Porter and asked to borrow a firetruck. At 8 a.m. today, firefighter Tom Carter will drive the truck to the site, attaching it to a pressure cleaner supplied by a Coral Gables police officer. The hope is that the pressure cleaner is powerful enough to cleanse the stones.

Theresa Shotwell will be grateful. She and husband Willie lost two children in the crash, sons Jarvis and Ailven Shotwell, both in town to see their younger brother graduate from the University of Miami.

''We heard about it. I can't believe it. My husband's not feeling too well,'' said Theresa Shotwell.

Jarvis and Ailven Shotwell were among the 104 passengers and five crew members on their way to Atlanta from Miami who lost their lives after a fire broke out eight minutes into the flight, and the pilots tried to return to Miami.

Before reaching the airport, the plane plummeted into the mucky Everglades, exploding into bits and pieces as it hit the coral rock bottom beneath the water's surface.

Edna Sands, 70, thinks about the accident every day. Her son, Roosevelt Tillman Jr., 40 at the time, was aboard Flight 592.

''Every time I pass in the hallway I see his picture,'' Sands said. ``What they did to the site is a shame. I just don't know about this generation. I don't know what to say.''

Miami-Dade police have recovered fingerprints. Police think whoever did the damage might have left a message.

''It's kind of hard to decipher at this point,'' said Miami-Dade police spokesman Alvaro Zabaleta.

The rarely visited memorial in a desolate part of Tamiami Trail was visited Friday by Claudia Mendoza, 30, on her way back to Naples from Miami. It was her first trip.


She sat quietly in her truck, her husband Juan at her side. A 10-foot alligator breaking the canal's water plane only a few feet away eyed the scene lazily.

''Family members have something to come to and mourn. What they did is just so rude,'' Mendoza said. ``It's sad.''

And with that, our group returned to the Flight 592 Memorial to undo what someone else had done.   About 20 Volunteers, some friends, some total strangers, joined together to remove the Graffiti.   Thanks to great planning and more manpower than any other trip there, the paint was gone in minutes.   So fast in fact, we had to find more work to do.   We went from a paint removal project to an entire site cleaning.   Grass all around the site was cut.   Every column and the cement sidewalk was carefully pressure cleaned.  Weeds, none over 3 inches tall, were pulled.   Sand was recovered from the low spots and placed into the low spots between the columns.   

Pictures by Steven, KO4E, Click on the image to see it full size:

Stats for today's work:

bulletOne riding mower
bulletThree gas pressure washers
bulletMany cans of our secret weapon
bulletOne Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Engine, 95
bullet600 gallons of water
bulletShovels, buckets, axe, brooms, gloves, hoe, trash bags.
bulletSandwiches and water provided by Miccosukee Tribe Police Officers

Although very hot, the weather was perfect.  While many of us knew the routine, we made sure everyone had a job to do.  Picking up trash, pulling weeds, laying hose.   A few teams got together to tackle the graffiti.   

Detailed Instructions by Robert, KE4MCL:

Maybe a little on technique so that others my learn if they need to do the same.

Seems that what worked the best to clean up bare concrete was hit the graffiti with the pressure cleaner first to get the easy stuff off then hit it with graffiti remover spray and the brass brush while it's still wet. Once your done with the brass brush and graffiti remover hit it again with the pressure cleaner and its deleted like if it was never there.

The granite tablet was cleaned by using a sock worn like a glove sprayed with graffiti remover and lightly patting the tablet surface to dampen the graffiti. After given it a few seconds to work then you carefully wipe the paint away working around the edges of the letters so as to avoid getting any inside the black outlines.

Once the tablet had been cleaned of paint then we washed it down using water and dish soap. we used plastic bristle brushes like those found to clean bathrooms so we could get the inside edges of the letters cleaned without damaging the surface of the tablet. The soap and water also helped neutralize the graffiti remover and wash it away. The minimal paint that was left in the lettering of the tablet will wear away in due time. The paint used by the vandals is inferior to what's used by the monument company so it will be eaten by the direct sunlight and washed away by the rains in short time.

Everything came off so fast, we had to find other work to do.  We couldn't let 3 pressure washers go to waste, so we went on to clean every single column and the sidewalk.   

Miami area Hams who participated:

bulletChris KG4SYV
bulletJeff KG4CNM
bulletJohn KF4ACN
bulletKevin K4PCS
bulletRay KD4BBM
bulletMatt KG4LGO
bulletSteve KO4E
bulletJames KF4OUI
bulletRobert KE4MCL

Three TV stations and the Miami Herald came out to cover this good news event.   It aired on Channel 10, WPLG on their 6 PM news.  

Volunteers Help Clean ValuJet Plane Crash Memorial
Vandals Defaced About 20 Markers Of Crash Victims

POSTED: 3:37 pm EDT July 16, 2005

MIAMI -- More than 30 volunteers removed swastikas and other vandalism Saturday from stone markers at a memorial for the 110 victims of the 1996 ValuJet crash in the Everglades.

Vandals used red paint to deface about 20 of the gray, obelisk-shaped markers, which bear the names of the crash victims.

The markers are lined up at varying heights to form an arrow that points to the site of the crash.

"It really (stinks) that people have to stoop to that level and deface the property like that," said Miami-Dade fire Lt. Thomas Carter, who drove a fire truck to the memorial site along Tamiami Trail to provide water for the cleaners.

"It cuts your heart out when you see it," he said.

Carter was a communications specialist who helped search-and-rescue crews hunt for victims after the fatal ValuJet DC-9 crash on May 11, 1996, that killed 105 passengers and five crew members in the swamps of the Everglades.

With those memories still present, he agreed to help radio operator and installer Matthew Ginn by providing the truck's 750 gallons of water. Ginn, who learned of the vandalism last week, previously worked at Miami-Dade Fire Rescue and asked the department if he could borrow the truck.

Carter and Ginn were joined in the blazing sun by volunteers from the Boy Scouts, Florida Power & Light, and the Miccosukee Indian tribe, whose police department provided sandwiches, french fries and drinks for the workers.

The job took about three hours, Carter said, and involved cutting the weeds and grass around the markers in addition to restoring them with paint remover, wire brushes and pressure cleaners. They cleaned all the markers, some of which had algae growing on them.

Some of the painted markers had Nazi swastikas on them, and others had the word "Die" written on them. No arrests have been made.

"They had it spray painted on top of the names of the victims," Carter said.

Ginn said he became involved with the memorial a few years ago after he noticed it was in disrepair while driving home from a camping trip, and he began cutting the weeds and making it presentable. He said he tries to visit the memorial three times a year, and the Scouts also help maintain it.

Ginn said he didn't feel it was right to allow the memorial of such a tragic incident to be neglected.

"That's people's family that died out there. They don't have a gravestone except for that monument," Ginn said.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

And even more coverage and a call for action Sunday Morning in the Miami Herald:

Posted on Sun, Jul. 17, 2005

In My Opinion  Jim Defede

Neglect belittles memorial to crash victims

Speeding west along the Tamiami Trail from Krome Avenue, I'm pelted by signs and billboards promising me places where I can ride an airboat, buy authentic Indian crafts and get up close and personal with a real-life alligator.

Nowhere along this road, however, do I see a sign or even a marker indicating the place I actually want to visit: the memorial for the 110 victims of ValuJet Flight 592.

When Flight 592 crashed 10 minutes after takeoff May 11, 1996, it all but vanished. The downward angle and speed with which the plane plunged to the ground shattered it into thousands of pieces that were quickly swallowed by the dark, murky waters of the Everglades.

Barely a Trace was the headline in The Herald the next morning.

It is a headline that would be just as apt in describing the memorial.

There is no sign marking the turnoff for the memorial, which is 12 miles west of Krome and on the north side of a canal that runs parallel to the road.

The site of the memorial is a fitting one. It was the location of the forward command post for search-and-rescue teams that spent weeks combing the pitch-black water for the remains of those who died, as well as whatever scraps of the plane they could find.

And the memorial itself is quite touching. Designed by University of Miami architecture students in consultation with the victims' families, the memorial consists of 110 stone obelisks forming an arrow that points toward the spot in the Everglades where the plane went down. At the tip of the arrow is a plaque with the names of all 110 victims.

But unless you have already been given directions to the memorial, you would never find it.

Nor would you even know when you passed it.

At best it would be a gray blur, visible only for a few seconds in a moving car.

My trip to the memorial Saturday morning was prompted by vandals -- kids, most likely -- who spray-painted many of the stones with graffiti.

They wrote the word ''die'' and scrawled swastikas on some of the stones, as well as the plaque.

When I arrived, a group of volunteers was hard at work removing the graffiti.

''Disgusted'' was the word Gerry Parlato used when I asked him how he felt about the vandalism. Parlato is a lieutenant with the Miami-Dade Fire Department and a leader of Boy Scout Troop 599.

For the last four years, that troop has been coming out on a regular basis to maintain the memorial -- picking weeds, mowing the grass around the site, keeping it presentable.

'This is an important spot for the victims' families,'' Parlato said. ``This place means a lot to a lot of people.''

''It's like desecrating a cemetery,'' agreed Robert Cruz, part of a group of ham radio operators that has also adopted the site and takes turns with the Boy Scouts maintaining the memorial.

Fearing there was so much damage, the two groups decided to pitch in and work together Saturday.

The Miami-Dade Fire Department lent a fire truck so the groups would have a supply of water for their high-pressure hoses.

And with about 20 volunteers on hand, it took them only a few hours to remove the spray paint.

As the cleanup wound down, Ray Vaughan, a telecommunications technician with the fire department as well as a ham radio operator, noted that the ValuJet crash affected a lot of people, not just the families of the victims.

Those who were involved in the rescue and recovery, he said, will never forget the grisly and emotional task of recovering the bodies from the black water. Even those, such as himself, who were in a supporting role to the rescuers were touched by the loss of life.

He said when he first came out four years ago to visit the memorial, which is on land owned by the South Florida Water Management District, the weeds had overtaken the site and were several feet high.

''Nobody really owns the memorial,'' he said. ``Nobody was responsible for it.''

The Boy Scouts and the ham radio operators have done a great job ever since. And everyone can agree that the vandalism was despicable. But there are other forms of neglect that become apparent as Vaughan and I talk.

Looking across the canal to the Tamiami Trail, he watched the cars speed by.

''There goes a tour bus,'' he sighed. ``They have no idea this is even here.''

Comments from the mailing list:

From: robert <>
Subject: [SoFlaHams] flight 592

thanks to all who showed up. between our group and the scout guys we had aprox 20 people scrubbing, pressure cleaning, pulling weeds, etc. we made quick work of this. in about 4hrs we not only performed the routine maintenance work of mowing, cleaning and pulling weeds but we also deleted all the grafiti from the columns, the floor, and the memorial stone. its as if it never happened.

channels 4, 7,10 and 23 were on site with video cameras as was the herald with its photog. the networks said we'd be on the early eve (6pm or so) newscast. we did a good deed and got some public exposure.

thanks all

From: "James Carlin" <>
Subject: Re: [SoFlaHams] flight 592

You forgot about some other stuff. Every column was hit with the pressure cleaner. Even the ones with no paint. The entire concrete base was also pressure cleaned.

Not only is the spray paint gone, but so are a lot of mold spots and dirt.

In addition to the radio people and the scout troop that showed up, a random citizen showed up out of the blue. He read the story about the cleanup in today's paper, and came out to help.

Other people came out too. I do not think that they were family members of the victims, they were just people who read today's story and came out to witness the effort.

I have my source in FPL that already said he would do what he could to assist Kevin in the quest to get a security light installed so this does not happen again. Kevin, you know my source and how to contact him.

And of course, lets not forget the fire truck that went out. Without the water it brought, the cleanup would have taken much longer.

With all the negative crap that is always in the news, it will be good to have this story run.

-- James KF4OUI

From: "Steven" <>
Subject: Re: [SoFlaHams] flight 592

Thanks to all that showed up and help right a wrong. I have created a photo album in the soflahams groups photo section. All pictures are of removal or completion of the project. Before photos are available only by direct request. We do not want to give the graffiti itself any "air time".

From: "Ray_Vaughan_99" <>
Subject: [SoFlaHams] Re: flight 592

Let me echo the 'good job' message. We did great today!

One thing I want everyone to remember. We went there to get rid of some paint. But because all of you showed up, we got that and so much more done. Remember this when we do other projects. I know it's not easy to get up on a weekend morning. But YOU do make a difference. We were out of there before the heat got really intense because everyone made that decision to get up early.

Some stats in case anyone wants to know:

bulletWe had 3 pressure washers going at once 
bulletWe emptied a 600 gallon fire engine (perfect timing)
bulletMiccosukee Tribe Police Officers brought by lunch and drinks.
bullet We recycled a lot of sand to fill in some holes

Great job on getting the media there. You can't buy the type of publicity this will get for Amateur Radio.

And most of all, you're reduced the stress on the family members who are miles away and you'll never meet. As their message board shows, they were upset by this. But after just a week or so, I'm sure they now know that the people of Miami do still care.

From: "Kevin" <>
Subject: RE: [SoFlaHams] Re: flight 592

I would like to add my thanks to all who showed up as well. Although the media coverage is nice and may result in some badly needed exposure for our hobby, the true reward is that OUR community became a better place today. Almost 10 years ago a number of factors came together to create arguably the worst tragedy in the history of Dade County. No one can ever take away the pain the families live with every day, however, our community responded by comforting these innocent victims back in 1996 and will continue to do so. The effort we put forth today (and on several other occasions) doubtless goes a long way in reminding these folks that our community stands shoulder to shoulder with them. Out of that tragedy, many opportunities were made to touch a life. TODAY, YOU TOUCHED A LIFE. I salute you all.

From: "Evelyn Gauzens" <>

Saw 6 PM coverage on two channels.
The memorial has had a total facelift...all graffiti plus dirt, etc, removed...A community working together for the common good...what a great feeling you all must have...
Media coverage very good and shows that Miami-Dade is a unified, good place to live.. nice to see positive coverage in the midst of all the bad news that gets around.
Evelyn W4WYR.

From: "Steven" <>
Subject: [SoFlaHams] 592 Cleanup news stories

James only found the tip of the iceberg. The story has gone national. This is just a sampling as we know several of the local stations had good stories and are not listed. Here is the list so far of stories from Google:

Aberdeen American News, SD - 3 hours ago
Associated Press
Bradenton Herald, FL - 2 hours ago
Contra Costa Times, CA - 5 hours ago
Eyewitness News, RI - 3 hours ago
Gainesville Sun, FL - 14 hours ago
Guardian Unlimited, UK - 6 hours ago
KASA, NM - 3 hours ago
KATC, LA - 3 hours ago
KCAU, IA - 3 hours ago, KY - 6 hours ago
KESQ, CA - 3 hours ago
KFOR-TV, OK - 3 hours ago
KFVS, MO - 3 hours ago
KLFY, LA - 3 hours ago
KPHO Phoenix, AZ - 3 hours ago
KPLC-TV, LA - 3 hours ago
KTRE, TX - 3 hours ago
KTVO, MO - 3 hours ago
KVIA, TX - 3 hours ago, AZ - 3 hours ago
KWQC-TV, IA - 3 hours ago
KWWL, IA - 3 hours ago
Lex 18, KY - 3 hours ago
Los Angeles Times, CA - 6 hours ago
Macon Telegraph, GA - 4 hours ago
Miami Herald, FL - Jul 16, 2005
Myrtle Beach Sun News, SC - 4 hours ago
Naples Daily News (subscription), FL - 5 hours ago
Newsday, NY - 6 hours ago
Ohio News Network, OH - 3 hours ago
Orlando Sentinel, FL - 1 hour ago, PA - 6 hours ago
San Jose Mercury News, CA - 6 hours ago
Seattle Post Intelligencer, WA - 6 hours ago
St. Petersburg Times, FL - 2 hours ago
Tallahassee Democrat, FL - 1 hour ago, FL - 1 hour ago
Tampa Tribune, FL - 8 hours ago
WALB-TV, GA - 3 hours ago
Washington Post, DC - 7 hours ago
WAVY-TV, VA - 3 hours ago
WBNS, OH - 3 hours ago
WBOC TV 16, MD - 3 hours ago
WCAX, VT - 3 hours ago
WHBF, IL - 3 hours ago
WHO-TV, IA - 3 hours ago
Wired News - 6 hours ago
WKYT, KY - 3 hours ago
WLUC-TV, MI - 3 hours ago
WOOD-TV, MI - 3 hours ago
WRIC, VA - 3 hours ago
WSTM-TV, NY - 3 hours ago
WTVM, GA - 3 hours ago
WVLT, TN - 3 hours ago

From: "Julio Ripoll, Architect WD4R" <>
Subject: RE: [SoFlaHams] flight 592

Dear Robert and all who participated in the Flight 592 Memorial Restoration.

You all did a very fine job.

The PR for Ham Radio was very good, but more importantly was the truly generous community service you all performed.

I am certain the family members who lost a loved one on Flight 592 are very appreciative.

My Best regards,
Julio WD4R



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