Decade of Healing Field Memorials in Sandy

Across the vast grassy expanse in front of Sandy City Hall flew a blaze of red, white and blue in remembrance of the fallen.

Marking the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the flags each reverently bore the name of someone that lost their life at the World Trade Center, Pentagon or Shanksville.  The field was a sight to behold as our great nation’s symbol of hope waved majestically across a quarter mile, that was filled with volunteers, patriots and those paying their respects. True to the name of the event, the Utah Healing Field Flag Display brought a sense of healing to more than one hundred thousand visitors.

Healing Field, Sandy, Utah

This monumental display began on Wednesday September 7th with hundreds of local citizens helping post the 3000 flags. For many, the posting of the Stars and Stripes in Sandy has become a yearly tradition and reminder of the light that can rise from darkness.  Some even take their Christmas card pictures at the field as a tribute to the fallen and a symbol of their support for the emergency responders that do such important work.

Memorial ceremonies began on Saturday and finished on Sunday evening, The morning of the first day, crowds gathered early in anticipation of events and needless to say, no one was disappointed.  Over a thousand Harley Davidson bikers, led by a vintage fire engine and police motorcycle escort, paraded through the streets surrounding the Healing Field.  Parking amid a display of emergency vehicles and military equipment, they joined the assembled visitors in honoring the victims and watching the unveiling of a new monument dedicated to emergency responders.  The inspiring program was attended by three of Utah’s Congressional delegation, two general officers and even Miss Utah.  A Life Flight helicopter circled the field in a fitting salute to those lost.  The aircraft dipped in a respectful bow then disappeared out of sight.

Frank Layden, former basketball coach for the Utah Jazz, and long time resident of both Utah and the City of New York spoke to the assembled audience.  He shared stories of his time in the firehouses near Ground Zero and touched the hearts of all who listened, with tales of bravery and sacrifice.  He then introduced former Utah Jazz star Thurl Bailey, who graced the crowd with song as three thousand white balloons were released to the heavens.  One for each lost soul.

Hope Rising - To Lift A Nation

Next came the great reveal, and after some brief words from Paul Swenson—the event’s creator and organizer-  and sculptor Stan Watts, the statue was unveiled for all to see.  The sudden appearance of the magnificent “Hope Rising—To Lift A Nation “ monument caused tears to well in many an eye and provided a lasting reminder of what regular Americans can do to lift and inspire others.

On Sunday, ceremonies included the reading of victim names, not forgetting Utah’s fallen soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan.  This ceremony attracted perhaps the largest group of Gold Star Mothers and families ever assembled in the Beehive State.  In keeping with the theme of the monument, Utah’s Fallen Frontline Responders were also included in the reading of names.

There were feelings of sadness as the field of flags was lovingly taken down on Wednesday the 14th, though some local citizens got to start their very own field by purchasing a flag and taking it home.  The grassy expanse looked bare and cold without the familiar warmth of the Stars and Stripes to brighten it.  Every day thousands of visitors had walked through the ordered rows of flags in the Healing Field as they read the nametags of the victims honored.  Talking with Colonial Flag Foundation staff members, they all had a story to tell: where they were when they heard, who they had lost and who was saved.  Smiles, tears and hugs characterized the emotions shared.

I encourage anyone who has yet to enjoy the experience of walking through these rows of flags to get to a local field and do so.  Having a physical representation of each life that was lost will change you forever.  Bring your children and your children’s children.  If there is not a field near you then start one, the Colonial Flag Foundation can help.  We must always remember the loss that day.  Must honor them.  Must heal.  Let us never forget the day we lost so many… Yet stood together.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *