TEMPE – Nearly 3,000 American flags stand above the lawns at Tempe Beach Park, each representing one of the nearly 3,000 people who died as a result of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. It was an event so significant that many Americans can recall exactly where they were and what they were doing on that day 20 years ago.
The Tempe Healing Field is an annual 9/11 tribute that allows visitors to reflect on the lives lost, especially among a generation that either isn’t old enough to remember or simply wasn’t born yet. The free tribute runs Friday through Sunday.
Nick Bastian, Tempe Healing Field event chair, saw his children grow up in and around the event, which came to Tempe in 2004. He used it as a “dad moment” to teach them about 9/11 and why it happened.
“I want people to be able to reflect on how it feels to them, and that’s different for every person. I didn’t lose a family member, I wasn’t associated with a first responder, but I feel for them,” Bastian said. “I’ve met families of first responders and people that lost somebody that day, and it’s really powerful to hear their story and feel that emotion.”
Clipped to nearly every flag is a tag with the name of someone lost that day, their age, date of birth and a short biography. Yellow ribbons represent the hundreds of first responders who rushed to help.
Shane Hollenback, a long-time volunteer for Tempe Healing Field, who was helping set up flags Friday, recalled a common experience when visitors find a flag with the name of someone they knew.
“Just this morning, a lady was trying to keep her composure and she nearly broke down,” Hollenback said. “Whoever it was on that plaque was obviously somebody that was really important, so I’ll remember that for years to come.”
The Tempe Healing Field 9/11 memorial will include numerous events, including a concert, a reading of the names of the dead and a candlelight vigil.
The free event operates on volunteers and donations via sponsorships or direct contributions. More information, including event times and ways to contribute, can be found on the Tempe Healing Field website.