By: Dee Dunheim

On the morning of September 11, 2001, at 7:45, Katrina Marino and her children - all great fans of the Wizard of Oz - were in Manhattan, so they stopped by to visit her husband, fire fighter Kenneth Marino at New York Fire Department Rescue Company #1.

"I saw the look of pride in his eyes," recalls Katrina, "as he put Kristin and Tyler in the driver's seat of 'Daddy's fire truck.' The visit was wonderful. As his family was about to drive off, Kenny Marino gave his children hugs and kisses and whispered to his daughter that he would bring her a "Wizard of Oz prize" when he got home that night.

Little did they know that within minutes, Kenny Marino's bravery, heroism and love for others would lead to his death in the attack of the World Trade Center. Eleven fire fighters from Rescue #1 responded to the WTC alarms just after Katrina and the children left the station. None returned. The last images family and friends saw of Kenny Marino were televised glimpses of him amidst the chaotic frenzy in the lobby of the first World Trade Center Tower to be hit, the second one to collapse.


Photographer Joe McNally shot a photograph of the widow and her children. It first appeared in LIFE magazine, then was published in the LIFE book "One Nation: America Remembers September 11, 2001."  In the picture, Tyler was holding his Scarecrow doll behind his mother's back. From Kristin's left hand dangled what her mother gave her when she realized their father was not coming home. It was  the "Oz prize promised by Daddy" the last time they saw him on September 11 - a Dorothy doll.

The Dorothy-sighting prompted Karen Bittorf of the Wizard of Oz Committee of the Duneland Chamber of Commerce in Chesterton, Indiana to contact Jean Nelson.  The two women launched their "For The Love Oz" campaign, working hand in hand to coordinate a massive effort. "Our goal was to fill the Marino's home with Wizard of Oz gifts. We had hoped," says Bittorf, "... to help distract Tyler and Kristin just a bit from the horrifying loss of their Daddy." Word went out fast. Chesterton was the headquarters for the wrapping of gifts being delivered from across the country. "Oz fans were eager to do something very special for the children and for weeks," says Nelson, "we were on an adrenaline high."

"It was amazing. Awesome," says Marino. "Boxes of Oz gifts kept coming." In response, she sent photos of her children, along with  countless personal notes to all those who had participated in the collection. They read: "We thank you most sincerely for bringing Oz Magic to our home." All were hand-written. "It was a fluke that Karen even noticed the doll in the photo" says Marino. But now, the widow understands that to any true Oz fan, the sight of those ruby-red slippers and blue-and-white checkered pinafore in that portrait had as much impact as Dorothy's house slamming itself down on the Wicked Witch of the East.

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The Wizard of Oz Festival, sponsored by the Duneland Chamber of Commerce in Chesterton, Indiana, is the oldest and largest of its kind. It draws in Oz fans from around the world who thrive on the family-oriented values instilled by the enduring writings of L. Frank Baum, followed by the 1939 MGM movie classic filmed in 1939.

From September 20 - 22, Katrina Marino, her children, her mother and firefighter Kenny Marino's mother, will be the special guests of the Festival and Grand Marshalls of the Parade. "The people of Chesterton's efforts to lighten our spirits and comfort us," says Marino, "..have been so intense and continual since 9/11, we will be thrilled to meet them all."

"Losing him is a hard road," says Marino. "It will always be a hard road."  But the next road the family will cross is made of Yellow Brick, where they will be honored with opened arms as  guests of honor in Chesterton, Indiana from September 20 -22.

Characters in the Wizard of Oz longed for everything that Kenny Marino already had: The Scarecrow wanted a brain, the Tin Man needed a heart; the Cowardly Lion wanted courage. And, all the while Dorothy longed for her home and family. Kenny Marino had it all. His final act of love, strength, and courage came when he ran into the World Trade Center to help -  while others ran from it to escape.

For September 20-22 Wizard of Oz Festival and Parade information, directions, and schedules, call the Duneland Chamber of Commerce at (219) 926-5513, or log onto http://wpl.lib.in.us/chamber/Oz/oz.htm


This summer, the Chesterton Fire Department sponsored a car wash raising enough money to buy airline tickets for Kenny Marino's mother, widow, children and mother-in-law to fly into Chicago's O'Hare Airport.   The Women of the Moose Lodge gave enough to cover all their meals throughout the weekend, while hotel accommodations for the family are being donated by The Hilton Garden Inn.

Last year, the 2001 Wizard of Oz Festival almost didn't happen. Three days before the celebrations were scheduled, America was attacked. We were at war. The town of Chesterton faced one of its toughest decisions - to cancel or not to cancel. The burden rested uncomfortably on the shoulders of Laurie Franke-Polz, executive director of the Duneland Chamber of Commerce. Amidst confusion and fear, and with much deliberation and soul searching, the Festival went on. "Black shrouds were placed on all police cars, fire trucks and emergency vehicles" says Polz. Although Chesterton residents and visitors from across the country were emotionally drained and in shock, they were given the chance to break lose from reality and retreat into Munchkinland. "Tear-filled onlookers waved American flags from the sidelines during the parade. We did what we could do to make a difference that weekend - especially for the children."
By: Dee Dunheim
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Jean Nelson, founder of the 21-year old Wizard of Oz Festival in Chesterton, Indiana, visits two-year old Tyler and four-year old Kristin Marino in New York. The children lost their fire-fighter father Kenny Marino in the World Trade Center attack. Marino's widow Katrina, her children, her mother and Kenny Marino's mother will fly intoChicagoland to be guests of the Festival and Grand Marshals of the this year's Parade from September 20 -22 in Chesterton, Indiana. For information, directions, and schedules, call the Duneland Chamber of Commerce at (219) 926-5513, or log onto http://wpl.lib.in.us/chamber/Oz/oz.htm   Photo: Dee Dunheim

Dee Dunheim
DEEDUN Public Relations
Phone (219)  929 -1038

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