3,000 flags stand in honor of Sept. 11 victims

Three thousand American flags flanked Tempe Beach Park Saturday morning as community members met to honor and remember those who lost their lives nine years ago on Sept. 11, 2001.

Friends, families, co-workers and strangers joined together at 5:46 a.m., the exact time American Airlines Flight 11 struck the first tower of the World Trade Center in New York City.  As the last words of the national anthem were sung, a quiet calm surrounded the area.

State Press Television By Arielle Hurst

Tempe Mayor Hugh Hallman led the morning’s ceremony, reflecting on the events of Sept. 11.

“We hope to not only remember, but to dedicate this day and this ground to the purpose that this country was created,” he said. “[We want] to remember in the continuing midst of our loss that our freedoms are created by trust, openness and inclusion.”

The Healing Field event also included the reading of the names of first responder victims of 9/11.

Along with Hallman, Tempe city council members, police and fire representatives and contributing members of the public all took turns reading the names of the victims.

Tempe Police spokesman Sgt. Steve Carbajal spoke to community members about the significance of public safety.

“As police officers we have sworn to serve and protect our community and accept adherent danger so others may be safe,” Carbajal said.

More than 100 volunteers met the day before to assist in setting up the flags on display. Volunteers did everything from pounding pieces of rebar into the ground to actually putting out the 3,000 8-foot flags that created the backdrop for the event.

Volunteers included members of local businesses, Boy and Girl Scouts, the Young Marines, the Exchange Club and anyone who wanted to participate.

The flags were tagged with a placard depicting a name and biography of a life lost on 9/11, said Mark Poisson, co-chair for the Valley of the Sun Exchange Foundation. The Exchange Foundation co-sponsored the event with the city of Tempe. The foundation is committed to making a difference in the lives of children, families and communities, according to the website.

“The city of Tempe has been a terrific partner though the years in Healing Field,” Poisson said.

“To walk through the field of flags and know that each one represents one life lost is a very moving experience,” Poisson said.

Seventy-two pairs of military boots were also collected to represent active duty military personnel who lost their lives. The boots were donated by veterans and tagged with their names and stories. They sat at the base of 72 flags.

The first Healing Field Event took place on the first anniversary of 9/11 in Sandy, Utah, said Sawn Swenson, program director of the Healing Field Foundation. Tempe is the second-longest running city to host the Healing Field event. Other states to host the event this year include Ohio, Montana and Massachusetts.

“Tempe was chosen as the location because planes flying over can see it, it is next to the University and is next to a large freeway,” said Doug Royse, co-chairmen of Tempe Exchange Club.

This is the seventh year that Tempe has hosted the Healing Field event, Swenson said.

The owner and founder of Colonial Flag Foundation, Paul Swenson, wanted to try and create a visual impression representing all the individuals that died on 9/11 the year before, Sawn Swenson said.

“When you read the number 3,000 it sounds like a lot, but the numbers seem to diminish in print,” she said. “We wanted to see what it would look like out in the field.”

People who witnessed the field in the first and second years in Utah responded strongly to its healing effect, so organizers named it the Healing Field, Swenson said.

“The flag of the United States represents what so many people have sacrificed,” she said. “It is a hard emotion to explain. No matter the number of flags, it is still just as powerful.”

The Healing Field event was emphasized to be a non-political event, Poisson said.

“We wanted to create a safe environment for people to reflect and remember in their own way,” he said. “We will never forget Sept. 11, 2001.”

Reach the reporter at amoswalt@asu.edu

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