Release Date: Monday, September 10th 2012
Tempe's Healing Field memorial honors 9/11 victims
By Jackee Coe
Volunteers set up nearly 3,000 American flags Sunday morning for the annual Healing Field memorial in Tempe that honors those who died in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
All of the 2,996 flags, each of which represents a person who lost his or her life in the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania in 2001, are marked with placards with the name of victims, information about them and where they died.
Combat boots mark flags representing soldiers, yellow ribbons signify the first responders and sky-blue ribbons denote the flags of airline crews, while six teddy bears mark flags for the children who died.
The nearly 400 volunteers who helped set up the field at Tempe Town Lake and Beach Park volunteered on their own and through organizations, including the Police Officers of Scottsdale Association, United Brokers Group and National Junior Honor Society at Chandler's Payne Junior High School.
"The field is really beautiful and inspiring because you just look at it and you think (of) all the people that were lost on 9/11," said Addie Sherman, 13, an eighth-grader at Payne and secretary of the junior honor society. "It's a good way to remember them and to honor them."
Chandler residents Paul and Karen Guenther, from the brokers group, brought their two daughters, 9-year-old Sierra and 11-year-old Sydney, to volunteer. Paul Guenther estimated they each set up about 20 flags.
Sydney said she liked her experience, but Sierra said it was sad.
"Just to know that this is how many people that died, that each flag represents one person," she said, "that means it's a lot of people that died."
The Healing Field is in its ninth year since the National Exchange Club in Tempe brought it to the Valley in 2004. It is free and open to the public through Tuesday.
The community-service club plans to hold a memorial service on Tuesday beginning at 5:46 a.m., when the first plane struck the World Trade Center.
The service will include a performance by the Tempe Fire Department's bagpipe corps and a reading of the victims' names.
Exchange Club president Mark Poisson said the memorial is intended to help people heal.
"There are two different distinct worlds in my lifetime, before 9/11 and then after 9/11," he said, "so our goal is to help people not forget 9/11, to help people not forget the day and the events that changed the history of our world forever, because we will never be the same."
Exchange Club volunteer Michael Whitaker, who helped bring the Healing Field to the Valley, said the field's design -- including the 5-foot space between flags, military boots, teddy bears and placement of the ribbons for first responders along the perimeter where "even in death they protect and serve" -- is designed to enhance people's emotional healing process.
"Unlike a graveyard, which is low and cold, this is in your face. You can touch it, you can feel it, you can read the names on there. It's much more personal, much more emotional, it's much more overwhelming," Whitaker said. "To actually almost feel the life and read the name ... it's a whole different emotional level of participation by the individual."
Grace Stauffer, the wife of Maricopa County Sheriff candidate Mike Stauffer, was volunteering as part of the Scottsdale officers association to honor the victims and support her husband's campaign.
She said Mike Stauffer, who was a New York City K-9 officer during the attacks, lost several friends who responded to the Twin Towers.
The anniversary of the attacks, Grace Stauffer said, is a constant reminder "that we have to be grateful for the fantastic country that we live in."
"I think that 9/11 really reminds us of what's important and our priorities and how lucky we are to live in such a great country," she said, "but also to give homage and pay respect to not only the 9/11 attacks but anybody who fights for our country."