SANDY, UTAH – September 11, 2015 (Gephardt Daily) – The annual tradition of posting 3,000 flags in honor of those who lost their lives in the 9/11 terrorist attacks continues this weekend on the promenade in front of Sandy City Hall.
It is the 14th year that thousands have come to pay their respects at the Utah Healing Field. Paul Swenson, the president of Colonial Flag, came up with the idea for the memorial in 2001 and pledged to hold the event each year. Swenson believes the “solemn formation of the Stars and Stripes” offers a sense of healing and of hope to all those who visit.
Swenson said on the first anniversary of 9/11, the company decided to round up all it’s vendors and put one flag up for each person killed in the attack. “We laid out a grid and had a bunch of volunteers show up and Wednesday, September 11, 2002, people woke up to 3,000 flags out here,” he said.
“We had no advertising, no banners, people just knew what it was and they told their friends. People came from Elko to Boise, and they were still coming after they took it down.”
From there, the event went nationwide and grew each year. “These people [that died] changed the course of history and put us into this current mode of the global war on terrorism,” said Swenson. “We pulled together as a country in this great show of unity. The theme is ‘Remember the day we lost so many and stood together.'”
It is also an opportunity for those too young to remember the events of 9-11 to learn about what happened. Many of the flags have been purchased in advance and will go to individual homes and businesses after the event is over.
Utah Liberty softball team, a girls’ team that takes part in various charitable events year-round, was one of the groups helping Thursday evening to set up the flags. Coach John Flores, who is also in the military, said the group has assisted every year for the past five years. “We come to pay tribute and remember those who lost their lives from 9/11 and other uniformed servicemen and women who have lost their lives since then, just a really important thing for us to do,” he said. “It’s very emotional because being in the military, I’ve lost a lot of brothers and sisters.”
Utah Liberty team member Nicole Wall, 15, said: “It’s something I look forward to every year, it’s fun so see everybody work together. I love our county and this is a great opportunity.” Fellow team member Jaydan Jensen added: “My favorite part is when it’s all done and you get this great feeling of accomplishment and respect.”
Red McCann, who lost a brother in Iraq in 2005, said she has helped put up flags for the past eight years. “This has become my life,” she said. “The first year that they decided to put names on each flag was awesome, I hung the majority of them by myself. Everybody needs to come and see this, especially the younger generation. This is part of our history, this is what they are growing into.”
The Utah Healing Field is free to the public and will be open through Monday, September 14.