The brutal September heat does not stop hundreds of volunteers eager to install the 3,000 American flags for the annual Healing Field at Tempe Beach Park. Each American flag represents a life lost during the terrorist attacks of September 11th 2001. The relentless heat also doesn’t stop thousands of people from visiting and paying respect to the enormity of human loss and the families left devastated.
Like many of you, we’ve spent a lot of time at Tempe Beach Park, whether it was for Oktoberfest or the Fantasy of Lights Boat Parade. All of these events bring thousands of people together. The Healing Field does too, but takes it to another level. 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. Each year at first glimpse of the flags it takes our breath away. Visiting the Healing Field is an emotional experience. Each time we feel a great amount of loss and admire the beauty of our community coming together for a common reason. It’s hard yes, but a small sacrifice compared to those who died and the families still grieving.
The Exchange Club of Tempe is the force behind this incredible memorial. Their attention to detail is truly remarkable. Not only does each flag represent a life lost, it goes much further. A bio card is placed on each flag pole as well as yellow ribbons for first responders. 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 11th, 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 the Exchange Club of Tempe challenges us not only to look at the Healing Field as a memorial, but also as the Teaching Field. Whereas each of us can remember exactly where we were and what we were doing on September 11th 2001, children born on or near this day have no memory. 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 September 11th, 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. And if the heat scares you, don’t worry, you can visit as early as 6am and stay as late as 8pm.
When you go, even if you just whisper it, read aloud the name of a least one victim. They say that we really die twice. Once when we leave this earth, and again the last time our name is spoken.
About the Tempe Healing Field: 18th Anniversary of 9/11:
When: September 7th -11th 2019 from 6am to 8pm.
Where: Tempe Beach Park
For a detailed schedule of events including a Tunnel to Towers 5k run/walk and Freedom Concert click here.
Visit their website for information including volunteering and sponsorship opportunities.
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