By Mary Compton
About 25 miles south of Chicago, a large opening in the earth made of 300-million-year-old limestone is mistaken for the Grand Canyon by children.
On a recent Saturday, almost 270 people visited the belly of Chicago's grand canyon — the Thornton Quarry.
Many have waited years to see this place up close. Tickets for a quarry tour are highly sought and rare.
Bob Cordy, of LaGrange Park, grew up in Homewood near the quarry.
“First time I rode my bike past here I was 12," remembers Cordy. "For years, I’d look down and wanted to get to the base. My friend got me tickets, this is a dream come true.”
After watching a short video of the quarry history, Cordy and about 90 others climbed into buses and headed to the quarry. Among the group was former science teacher and former Worth Mayor Ed Guzdziol.
“I’ve been in quarries before doing geology work while I was going to school, but NOTHING of this magnitude,” said Guzdziol.
Today, the north side of the quarry is closed. Plugs are being poured into the tunnels for the Deep Tunnel Project, one of the largest flood-control efforts in the nation. Thornton north will be the largest reservoir in the world, capable of holding 9 billion gallons of floodwater, as of 2015 when it's operational.
Participants in the Thornton Quarry tour picked and prodded at the limestone and looked for fossils as 93-year-old Rocky Consorti watched.
The day of the Quarry tour was also the 70th anniversary of Consorti's participation in the D-Day invasion in Normandy. He was as nonchalant about Normandy as he was about the quarry.
"I’ve been down this hole many times before," the 1938 Bloom High School graduate said. "I would drive my car down here years ago, when I helped my son with a science project.“
Consorti and his wife have volunteered many years with the Thornton Historical Society.There is a three-year waiting list to go on one the two tours a year held at Thornton Quarry. Sign-up for the June 2017 Quarry tour is going on now. To sign up or get more information about the quarry, go to www.Thornton60476.com.