One of the first New York Police Department officers on the scene the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, will be the keynote speaker at this year’s Healing Field candle light vigil on Tuesday, Sept. 11 at 7 p.m.
Retired officer Joe Lutrario helped evacuate children from the day care center inside the World Trade Center on 9/11. Once the children were all out safely Lutrario ran back into the building and became trapped when it collapsed. He spent hours in the rubble and once he was out, his injuries were wrapped and he went right back to work searching for survivors.
“He tells a very powerful story,” said Mark Poisson, an Ahwatukee Foothills resident and president of Tempe Exchange, the host club for the Healing Field. “I spent two hours with him the first day that we met and I was just blown away. Joe is very passionate about what he does. For the first two or three years he was not able to share or even speak about his experience. He actually speaks at different events around the country now and that helps him heal and it helps others heal at the same time. Joe is a true giver.”
The candle light vigil will be the final ceremony at Tempe Beach Park to honor victims of 9/11. The memorial will begin on Sunday, Sept. 9 when volunteers are invited to arrive at the park at 6 a.m. to help set up flags. Nearly 3,000 flags will be placed across the beach park representing each person who died on 9/11. Each flag will have a name card of a victim and each veteran this year will have a pair of U.S. Army boots placed at the base of their flag. Flags lining the middle of the field will represent the airline crews who were killed in the attacks.
On Monday, Sept. 10 elementary and junior high students from the Kyrene School District will host a Freedom Concert at Tempe Beach Park where they will sing patriotic songs. The concert will begin at 7 p.m.
On the morning of 9/11 there will be a memorial service, beginning at 5:46 a.m., the exact time when the first plane struck the World Trade Center. The names of all first responders and the airline crews will be read during the memorial service and the new Tempe Mayor, Mark Mitchell, will speak.
This year is the Ninth Annual Healing Field memorial. The Healing Field is the largest and longest running healing field memorial of its type in the country. Poisson, who first became a volunteer for Healing Field before joining Tempe Exchange, said his favorite part every year is helping families find the flags that represent their loved ones.
“When they find that person’s name on one of the 8-foot-tall flags, which happens hundreds of times every year we have healing field up, the emotions that come forth it’s just amazing,” he said. “That’s why we do it. It helps people to heal and it helps our country to never forget what happened on that day.”
This year Tempe Exchange Club has partnered with the American Red Cross. There will be a bus on site for blood donations on Monday from 3 to 8 p.m. and Tuesday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Walk-in donors are welcome.
Tempe Beach Park is located at 80 W. Rio Salado Parkway. For more information on the Healing Field, visit facebook.com/September11.HealingField or call (602) 402-7928.
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