Nearly 3,000 American flags rustled in the gentle breeze at Tempe Beach Park after being placed Friday morning, each one commemorating the deaths caused by the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania.
Row after row of flags line Tempe Town Lake, each flag pole tied with a yellow ribbon. Sunday evening, there will be a candlelight vigil held at the field, including music, prayer and guest speakers - just one of approximately 20 different events, memorials, commemorations and dedications that have taken place in the East Valley over the last week.
The Town of Gilbert dedicated each day of the week leading up to the 10th anniversary of 9/11 with a different theme, reflecting community and family involvement. These included volunteering, a candlelight vigil, events to honor both military and public safety service members, local artwork, and videos of remembrance.
On Thursday, Gilbert revealed the honorary street sign "American Heroes Way," a tribute to local and national heroes including first responders, military personnel and everyday community heroes.
"We wanted to rename the street, but with all of the issues that come in renaming a street, we couldn't do that at this time," said Mayor John Lewis. The town will continue to pursue officially changing Civic Center Drive to American Heroes Way.
Gilbert's 9/11 Memorial outside of Town Hall, which features a steel beam taken from the debris of the World Trade Center, will be dedicated Sunday. That evening, two beams of light will shine from dusk until midnight at the memorial.
"This memorial will be a chance to impress on our children the grief the entire country felt that day," Lewis said.
The memorial will serve as a permanent place for people to stop and ponder, said Gilbert fire chief Collin DeWitt.
"It really serves to unify the community," DeWitt said. "There are no political parties here. It's beautiful, simple and very, very complex."