Flag site creates permanent tribute to Sept. 11

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    By Sara Richardson

    Sandy – After using the stars and stripes to commemorate the lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001, a local flag-making company created a Web site to make the event a permanent tribute to people who lost their lives in the attacks.

    Colonial Flag President Paul Swenson originally wanted to create a display demonstrating the sheer enormity of the human-life lost in the terrorist attacks.

    With less than a week”s notice, his staff made 3,031 flags, recruited local volunteers and created the Healing Field, finishing it just in time for the one-year anniversary of the attacks, he said. The flags remained standing less than a few days.

    The Healing Field was created on the lawn of Sandy City Hall, which is roughly the same size as the grounds where the Twin Towers once stood. The volunteers and staff planted 3,031 flags in cornstalk-like rows, each one symbolic of an individual who lost his or her life on Sept. 11.

    “We got such a huge response to the flags, and I wanted to have a place where we could collect these stories,” Swenson said. “We weren”t just getting thank-you”s, but we were starting to get stories from the actual surviving victims and their families who wanted to share some of the details of the disaster.”

    Swenson decided to use the domain name healingfield.com as a home for responses to the flag display. The company posted the page on the Web the second week of January, and has had nearly 35,000 hits, said Colonial Flag Web Master David Rindlisbach.

    “This is pretty amazing considering that we never advertised the site,” Rindlisbach said. “It”s all been through word of mouth, and people forwarding the Web address.”

    The Web site, as well as several private Web sites with accounts of the Healing Field experiences, have been forwarded around the world. Letters have come in from several different countries, and even from soldiers stationed and activated around the world, Swenson said.

    On Feb. 5, 2003, a lieutenant wrote to Web site after receiving the address in a forwarded message: “I am currently deployed overseas with the war on terrorism and seeing your display just reinforced why we are here. We are proud to serve, proud of what we do. No matter what may be asked of us in the near future, it means more than you may know that there are people back home supporting us.”

    Cliff McGlamry, a contract programmer/network engineer from Riverton, originally posted pictures of the event on his own Web site. Links to his account of the event, and those posted by other individuals, can be reached through the Web site, all of which are tributes to the Healing Field creation of Colonial Flag.

    “It”s hard to picture mentally just how big the thing is,” McGlamry said of the anniversary display. “People would park and get out and walk among the flags. Some brought bundles of flowers and left them at the base of a flag. Others came together and just hugged each other hard in the silent memory of the terrible loss that we suffered one year ago.”

    The display compares to the magnitude of The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington D.C., and the changing of the guards at The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington, Va., McGlamry said.

    “As I walked among the rows (of the Healing Field), I was reminded of rank on rank soldiers standing at attention, guarding us even now,” McGlamry said.

    The Web site is now home to photographs of the Healing Field, accounts of people”s experiences viewing the field and stories of victims affected by the attacks.

    “I was lucky that day,” wrote Ellen Ruth Shapiro of Wheatly Heights, NY. “I walked out of tower two just minutes before it was hit. It is a good thought to know that if I wasn”t so lucky, people across our country would remember me in such a beautiful way.”

    The Web site has been so successful in spreading the original message of the Healing Field that Colonial Flag has received calls from Gov. Jeb Bush”s office in Florida and other cities across the nation with requests to set up their own local fields, Swenson said. In response, Colonial Flag wants to make the Healing Field an annual event through cities across the nation, as well as a permanent monument in one location yet to be determined.

    “Sept. 11 was like Pearl Harbor, or any other significant day in our country that changes the country in a new direction,” Swenson said. “Never before had Lincoln”s words been more meaningful to me than after seeing the site where the heroes of Flight 93 (that crashed into the Pennsylvania field) died, that ”these dead shall not have died in vain.””