Preparations have been completed for one of the Valley’s most somber commemorations of the people who died when terrorists took down the World Trade Center, damaged the Pentagon and crashed a jetliner into a field in Western Pennsylvania on Sept. 11, 2001.
On Saturday, volunteers rallied at Tempe Beach Park to set up 2,996 American flags for the annual Healing Field remembrance sponsored by the Exchange Club of Tempe, along with the City of Tempe’s support.
The somber display of flags with a yellow ribbon to honor each person who died in the attacks includes a small biography about the person it represents.
“The Healing Field transforms the park into a place of reverence, of common ground, where you feel connected to each of the people you are standing next to or paying respects to,” organizers state on a City of Tempe webpage. “Each year at first glimpse of the flags it takes our breath away.”
“The Exchange Club of Tempe is the force behind this incredible memorial. Their attention to detail is truly remarkable,” it continues. “The first responders’ flag poles are respectfully placed along the perimeter, continuing to ‘protect and serve’ even in death. Gary Eugene Bird, the only resident of Arizona who perished on Sept. 11, has a small Arizona flag at the base of his flag pole.
“Additionally, the stuffed bears you see at the base of flag poles identify the children who died that day, and combat boots recognize veterans who have perished. Each pair of boots were donated by a military veteran.”
This year, organizers also hope to make the Healing Field a Teaching Field.
“Children born on or near this day have no memory” of the event, the website notes.
“The old tattered schoolbooks that most kids have don’t even contain this important part of our history. We’ve heard many kids ask why on Sept. 11 their school didn’t so much as mention it. That is unacceptable. Bring your children to the Healing Fields. There is an information booth and posters that detail the timeline of events that day.”
Ahwatukee residents Mark Poisson and Judy Chasse have long been involved in organizing the Healing Field.
Chasse told AFN in an interview two years ago that “witnessing firsthand the many lives touched each year in a powerful way is overwhelming.”
Poisson added, “I think we should never forget,” Poisson said. “We should never forget what happened. I feel the country is losing a little bit of the impact we all felt that day when we were watching the news.”
On Saturday, volunteers can pound nearly 3,000 pieces of rebar and erect the eight-foot flags with bio cards. Or they can help take down the flags and store them once the commemoration has ended next week. Go to facebook.com/tempeexchangeclub to find out how to sign up.
While the display will be up to visit from Sunday on, there are special services set next week at the site.
A free Freedom Concert will be held 6:30-8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 10. At 5:46 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 11, a memorial service begins at the exact Arizona time that the first plane hit the towers; a candlelight vigil will be 7-9 p.m. Wednesday with prayers and a message by Tempe Officers Association President Robert Ferraro.
Volunteers will take down the display at 6 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 12.