published: Friday, November 30, 2012
Kitten rescued from inside Abe Lincoln statue
ROXANNE BROWN | Staff Writer
A gray kitten trapped for days inside the Lincoln Memorial replica that sits near the entrance of The President's Hall of Fame museum at U.S. Highway 27 and Citrus Tower Boulevard in Clermont was rescued Sunday morning.
"There were hugs, kisses and lots of cheers when the kitten, now called 'Little Abe' was pulled out," Museum Curator John Zweifel said.
Barbara Morris, a tour guide at the museum, said she first heard the kitten's faint meows on Friday afternoon right before the museum closed.
She thought perhaps its mother would retrieve it, but when she returned Saturday morning, early and armed with some cans of cat food, the kitten was still inside the huge statue of Abe Lincoln.
"I came in early Saturday morning because I was very worried about the kitten and by that time, he was crying as loud as he could, obviously scared and in distress," Morris said. She immediately called Lake County Animal Control then the Clermont Fire Department when she couldn't reach anyone at the shelter.
Morris said that within minutes, a Clermont fire crew led by Chief Carle Bishop arrived but without the owner's permission, nothing could be done, since the only way to get to the kitten was to cut a hole in the memorial. Bishop said crew members left a can of sardines near a small hole in the back of the statue to lure the kitten out, but to no avail.
By early Sunday, Zweifel granted permission to cut into the memorial and the rescue was arranged with the Minneola Fire Department and a crew led by Firefighter Medic Vance Flummer.
By 11:30 a.m., the kitten was pulled to safety by Minneola firefighter Robert Seigworth, who had to be lowered down into the statue from a hole that was cut and drilled into its back.
"During all the sawing and cutting of the memorial, we could not hear event he tiniest meow from the kitten. He must have been scared by all the noise and all that was going on around him," Zweifel said.
Once inside the statue, Seigworth grabbed hold of the kitten and both were pulled up to safety.
A crowd of onlookers, including many from Morris' church family at Blessed Sacrament Church, gathered to observe, as did officials from the Minneola Fire Department, the Clermont Police Department, PETA and the Lake County Humane Society.
Minneola Fire Chief Jan Otero said the rescue was the first for an animal being trapped inside a statue that he knows of.
"I was so thankful that the kitten was in such good health, considering he'd been trapped in the statue since Friday," Morris said. "I really have to commend the crews that came out, both from Clermont and Minneola, because they really showed such heart and concern."
After news spread about the trapped kitten, many people stepped up to adopt it.
Dan Davis, a Human Society official, said that "Little Abe" would not be ready for adoption for about three months, after being neutered and nursed back to health.
Meanwhile, Zweifel hopes that before the kitten is adopted, it will be allowed to visit the Presidents Hall of Fame for pictures in front of Abraham Lincoln, his namesake.
Zweifel hopes to gather pictures of the rescue and of the kitten and include them inside the museum as part of a permanent display.