September 11, 2003
After receiving so many thank you letters, photos, emails, personal stories and requests for more information relating to the Original Sandy 9/11 Flag Memorial in Sandy Utah September of 2002, I decided to make a simple web page where individuals could share stories and experiences as well as photos they had of the memorial.
I did this somewhat reluctantly because of the tender nature of the event it commemorated. My original intent as I was contemplating the display was to demonstrate the sheer enormity of the human loss that occurred in the terrorist attacks. It became obvious as more and more volunteers showed up on the evening of September 10th to help set it up, that it had become a very personal gesture of mourning and support. Many who had huge blisters or sore backs, even when asked to sit down or go home, responded exactly the same way, “I’m not leaving until it’s complete and each and every person who died has their own flag in the ground. This is the only way I know how to show my support!”
I knew this display had become more than a demonstration of the number I had read in the paper the week before when the idea came to me. After all of the volunteers had left, I sat in my car until after 3 a.m. on the morning of the 11th watching the reactions of the late-night visitors. One young woman I watched started at one end and, walking back and forth down the many rows of flags, touched every single flag. I knew she was mourning the loss of each and every victim in as personal way as she could. By word of mouth, the area had become a traffic concern within 24 hours. It was estimated that over 50,000 cars drove by in the first 24 hours. Fathers and mothers walked through with their children. Friends and family of those who died placed wreaths and flowers by many of the flagpoles. Soon I was hearing that it was the first time many had been able to cry since the attacks. Many felt a healing take place inside their hearts. You could not walk through the display without getting emotional.
Now that it is over and the flags have come down, I have these thoughts. The 8-foot poles were barely bigger than an average height person. They were personal and yet larger than life. The flags could be touched and felt, both in your hands and on your face. The perfect grid that the poles were placed on showed respect. It was easy to “get lost” among the poles and have a private moment for yourself or your family. There were many moods that could be felt, depending on whether or not the wind was blowing. They would come to life and then, when the wind left, sit with such solemn majesty. In reality, the field had actually come to life. There really was more there than just the poles and flags. Most felt it and hundreds expressed it to us. I like to think that many of the spirits of those who were killed came and participated in the love that was in such abundance. It became a healing field for all who drove by, walked through, or saw pictures or read about it.
I have been asked if we will do it again. I can think of no better way to commemorate the events of that horrid day and honor the souls that were lost, as well as their families and friends, than with the Healing Field®. So yes, as long as I can breathe, there will be a field of flags.
My hope is that the special nature of this Healing Field® will be duplicated across the country in many cities and towns. All that is needed is a desire and a large field or grassy area (a minimum of 2 – 3 acres is required, much more if possible). Many have shown an interest in this already.
A permanent memorial of this type is in order. I can think of no better interactive memorial than this. The groundwork has already been laid in both material acquisition and location. It is going to require a great deal of support – not so much financial as moral. Please let me know if you think it is a good idea. Where would you like to see it done? Remember, this was a national tragedy!
In October of 2002 I flew to Virginia, and drove to all three-crash sites in one day in order to get a feel for the geography and the magnitude of the loss. I awoke and drove to the Pentagon, where I was shown the area they have mostly rebuilt. I drove across Pennsylvania to Shanksville, and wept a good while there. I drove in the dark and pulled into Manhattan at 2 a.m., exhausted yet committed. My desire is to build a permanent display with 3031 flagpoles and flags as a permanent memorial and healing grounds. I was thinking it should be in Manhattan before my trip. Then I went to Shanksville and Washington.
I decided to search out a spot equidistant from all three locations. That spot (geographically centered) is near Red Lion, Pennsylvania. I then thought that, in reality, all Americans, whether they were eating breakfast in Omaha, at the barber in Chicago, or just waking up in San Diego, were victims for freedom that day! I then thought it should be built in Nebraska or South Dakota — the geographical center of both the continental US and of all 50 states respectively. I solicit ideas and input from any individual, company, organization, city, or state.
I visited Gettysburg while on the above-mentioned drive. Never before had Lincoln’s words been more meaningful to me than after seeing the site where the heroes of flight 93 died, that “these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth” (Gettysburg Address – November 19, 1863)
God Bless America, our home sweet home!
Paul B. Swenson, Founder, Healing Field® & Field of Honor®
President Colonial Flag