Field of Flags to commemorate 20th anniversary of 9/11

Members of the community are invited to participate in the Kiwanis Club of Marietta’s Field of Flags memorial scheduled for September 4 through 18. This event, a display of almost 3,000 three-by-five foot American flags at Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield, is one of the largest commemorations of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack in the nation.  The event’s somber motto is One life lost. One flag flown.

Volunteers are needed to help kickoff the event on Saturday, September 4, to carry a flag in the procession from Grace Community Church on Kennesaw Avenue to the battlefield on Old Highway 41.  Community members are also invited to attend the memorial service on Saturday, September 11.

Captain James D’Avolio from the New York Fire Department is this year’s featured speaker. Other opportunities to participate in the Field of Flags include reading the names of those who died on 9/11 at the memorial service, sponsoring a flag for the display, visiting the battlefield during the two-week installation, or sharing a personal memory at the online portal.  More information, including dates and times of all activities, is available at the event’s website, www.911fieldofflags.com

The 2021 Field of Flags is the fifth recurrence of this solemn remembrance. It came about as a natural outgrowth of the Kiwanis Club’s well-known Flag Project, where club members deploy over 1,700 large American flags around the Square and throughout the community on six patriotic holidays each year. In 2003, Devan Seabaugh, who was president of the club at the time, and the late Glenn Graham, chair of the Flag Project, conceived of a “field of flags” to honor those who perished in the September 11th terrorist attack.

At first, the idea of deploying almost 3,000 flags, with its $30,000 budget and complex logistics, seemed almost insurmountable. But Seabaugh and Graham sold the idea to club members and friends throughout the community, and the project began to take shape.  A couple of anonymous Kiwanians underwrote the funding. Others worked with officials at Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield to meet the National Park Service’s stringent requirements to use the site for the tribute. Club member Sam Kelly and Cobb Electric Membership Corporation provided nighttime lighting. Flagpoles were donated by Mark Wade and Wade Electric, and club members began to sell flags to defray costs.    

Kiwanian Trent Turk of GeoSurvey Land Surveying recognized the challenges of placing thousands of large flags across the nine-acre site in an organized pattern. Using state-of-the-art surveying equipment, his staff marked the battlefield into grids and the placement of every flag was planned.  At sunrise on September 10, 2003, volunteers pounded in almost 3,000 four-foot sections of rebar to serve as stands for the ten-foot flagpoles.

Later that day, Kiwanis Club of Marietta members led a solemn community procession, carrying the flags to the field where they were installed in neat rows. The following day, September 11th, the club held its regular meeting outdoors against the backdrop of American flags waving in the breeze, and a tradition was born. The club committed to recreating this stunning visual tribute to 9/11 victims every five years.

Leading 2021’s 20th anniversary Field of Flags are co-chairs Councilwoman Michelle Cooper-Kelly, Frank Mims, Jamie Vann and a large Field of Flags Volunteer Committee.  Corporate sponsors, including Cobb EMC, C. W. Matthews Contracting, GeoSurvey, and Withers Tool, Die, & Manufacturing, are donating expertise, labor, materials, and storage. Co-chair Jamie Vann noted, “Coordinating this huge event, with so many moving pieces, wouldn’t be possible without the team of volunteers who have that ‘get it done’ mentality.”

As in past years, the Kiwanis Club expects that the 2021 Field of Flags will host thousands of visitors, including survivors of the attack, family members of victims, and all those who want to pay their respects.  For Devan Seabaugh, an executive at Metro Ambulance Service who was recently elected to the Georgia House of Representatives, it’s personal. ” When I look out over the Field of Flags, I think of the lives lost, including EMTs, police officers, and firefighters who willingly sacrificed their lives to save others.  This field reminds us that freedom comes at a price.”

20th anniversary Field of Flags, September 4 – 18, 2021, at Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield.  Everyone is welcome.  For more information, please visit www.911fieldofflags.com.

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