Fifteen Years—How Well Does Our Nation Remember?

City Hall and Flags

This coming 11th of September, Patriot Day, marks the 15th Anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 2001. Since Patriot Day is observed yearly, it might be questioned if a fifteenth anniversary is anything special. Some historians argue that anniversaries are really non-events. However, try to tell that to a man or woman whose spouse has forgotten a wedding anniversary. Truth is that anniversaries raise awareness for important events. The 15th Anniversary of the 9/11 attacks is, for that reason, an exceptional opportunity, not only to honor those who died, but to raise public awareness for an event we must never forget.

Certain signal events in life have such impact that individuals remember exactly where they were and what they were doing when first heard a report. The attack on Pearl Harbor, the death of FDR, the assassination of JFK, the explosion of the Challenger—for anyone old enough to remember these events, every detail is captured in a sharp focus. September 11, 2001 is just such an event.

Yet, with the passage of years even strong memories fade, and with the press of daily life significant memories are pushed in to the background of the mind. For youth and children too young, experience does not offer any memory of a day that changes the world.

How can we depict the magnitude of loss suffered on a beautiful fall day suddenly transformed into a gray panorama of broken concrete, twisted steel, clouds of dust and columns of smoke amid unbelievable carnage? Photographs and film clip record scenes of horror and misery as our nation and the world mourned. Yet, now fifteen years later, they do not tell the story adequately. How can the story be told looking toward to the future with optimism?

On the first anniversary of the 2001 attacks, Paul Swenson felt the need to commemorate the enormity of loss in a positive and uplifting way. He envisioned posting a United States flag to honor each individual killed in the World Trade Center’s twin towers, the Pentagon, and the grassy field in rural Pennsylvania.   Visitors to this first massive display of the Stars and Stripes felt a sense of healing as they walked through ordered rows of flags, and the display received its appropriate Healing Field® name. Repeated annually at its first location, the vision spread to other communities. Over fifteen years, hundreds of communities have commemorated with Healing Field® flag displays an event now known simply as 9/11.

The 15th Anniversary is an exceptional opportunity to raise awareness for the day when a handful of terrorist tried to divide us in fear, but united us in resolution. Whether your community has produced a number of annual Healing Field® displays, has hosted a Healing Field® only once or twice, or has yet to experience a local Healing Field event—bringing a 15th Anniversary to your community will draw your community together appropriate awareness for an event that we cannot afford to forget.

That adults may remember and youth may learn.

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