In Iowa’s Healing Field, 2,988 Flags Honor Victims of Sept. 11 Attacks

September 11, 2006

The rippling of flags and passing traffic were the only sounds heard Friday as people milled about 2,988 American flags, each one representing a person killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The Healing Field of Central Iowa is one of 14 such fields created across the country to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the attacks. The flags, put up by volunteers, create a sea of red, white and blue on the 17-acre campus of Homesteaders Life, a company that sells insurance to funeral homes and one of the field’s sponsors.

Deborah Nott, a spokeswoman for the national Healing Field Charitable Foundation, said the concept was hatched by Paul Swenson, owner of Colonial Flags, in Sandy, Utah.

She said Swenson was on his way home from a business trip shortly before the first anniversary of the attacks.

“He got a gut feeling that he needed to do something to visualize and memorialize the victims,” Nott said.

He decided to raise one 3-foot by 5-foot flag on an 8-foot pole in Sandy for each person who died in the attacks. Word quickly spread and soon he had a lot of help, Nott said.

“Volunteers kept showing up and it turned into a huge community event,” she said. “It got national coverage and people kept calling and wanting to get involved.”

It quickly grew and has turned into a fundraiser for local charities. People can pay to sponsor a flag, which they can take home with them after the event, Nott said. Proceeds go to a charity.

“It became a fundraiser, a community event to help the community have a healing event but to allow people to take home a flag to always remember what happened,” she said.

While 14 healing fields have been built across the country to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the attacks, other fields have been created to remember victims of child abuse, for soldiers serving in the war and for those soldiers who have died in combat.

Tricia Drake, a Homesteaders spokeswoman, organized the Iowa field. She said Homesteaders wanted to do something special for its 100th anniversary.

She said 900 people have volunteered for the project, including 500 to help put the flags up over the past two days.

The West Des Moines field will be open 24-hours a day through Sept. 16, with the flags illuminated at night. The field is just west of the Interstate 80/35 interchange in West Des Moines.

Flags can be purchased for $25 – $29 if shipping is needed, with proceeds going to Hospice of Central Iowa and the Funeral Service Foundation.

A ceremony is planned for today at 10 a.m. at the field.

Topics Iowa

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