Sandy 9/11 memorial 'brings it back' even a decade later

Published: Saturday, Sept. 10 2011 5:39 p.m. MDT

Master Sgt. Gordon L. Ewell, U.S. Army speaks at the Utah Healing Field 9/11 Flag Memorial and Hope Rising Unveiling Ceremony at Sandy City Hall on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2011.

Mike Terry, Deseret News

SANDY — Sitting amid a sea of American flags, each representing a life lost on 9/11, Pam Taylor choked back sobs as she tried to explain why she wanted her young grandchildren to see the memorial.

"It brings it back," is all she can say initially about taking her family being to the Healing Field exhibit outside Sandy City Hall on Saturday for the unveiling of a new, permanent monument marking the day.

But after dabbing at her tears and taking a deep breath, she nodded towards 10-year-old Kenzie. "She was just born," Taylor said. "This is her world. It's the only one she's known."

Kenzie stopped playing with her younger brother for a moment to calmly describe that world as different but "not the one that was crushed."

Just now learning of the devastation of that day, Kenzie described the nearly 3,000 casualties commemorated by the flags around her simply as "too many."

Her grandmother's expression then changed from sadness to a proud smile. "That's a good answer," she told the fifth-grader.

Nearby, Blaine and Janet Maw slowly walked hand-in-hand through the flags. The elderly couple said it's important to take time to reflect on what was lost that day.

Janet Maw apologized for becoming emotional. "Sorry," she said, brushing back tears. "I've always been patriotic….I had several uncles who served in World War II, but they all came back."

A procession of motorcyclists soon arrived, most decked out in biker leathers and t-shirts announcing the "Fire Ride" to honor the fallen heroes of 9/11. As they passed a group of soldiers, each waveds, nodded or mouthed a "thank you" above the roar of their engines.

Todd Skiby, a heavy equipment operator in Roy, said he joined the ride that started at the South Valley Harley-Davidson dealership to "remember the people who aren't with us any more."

Skiby suggested another way to honor the fallen. "Just be nice to everyone around," he said. "That's what the whole world needs to do again."

Jean Jones, a retiree from Sandy, said she routinely hugs soldiers and thanks them for their service. "They've done so much for out country," Jones said.

She embraced U.S. Army Reserve Staff Sgt. Mathew Pickering of Holladay shortly after the unveiling of the massive "Hope Rising" bronze monument, depicting the three firefighters who raised the American flag at ground zero.   

"I appreciate you," Jones said softly.

Earlier, Pickering had been talking about his initial reaction to 9/11, " to go out there and kick butt and take names." After being hugged, he could only nod at Jones.

Salt Lake City Fire Department Capt. Michael Harp, part of a team that searched the World Trade Center rubble for survivors a decade ago, had his young children by his side during Saturday's ceremony.

Harp, among those who pulled the wrapping from the monument, said he's just now trying to talk with his 9-year-old daughter, Ariel, about the attacks.

Ariel knows what the monument means.

"Many firefighters that went to that building. They really tried to help save the people in that building," Ariel said. "I think lots of people died."

And she knows that's the same job her father and other first responders still do every day. They're all heroes, she agreed, including her dad.

Joan Gwynn silently stared at the 9-foot figures scupted by Utah artist Stan Watts.

"I think this is going to be a spiritual place for a lot of people, just like the Washington, D.C. monuments," Gwynn, a retired retailer from West Valley City, said. 

For her, the statute represents the sacrifices to come from those who defend the country's freedom.

""It's not going to stop. There are always going to be heroes," Gwynn said. "They'll always be somebody filling those boots."

E-mail: lisa@desnews.com

Twitter: dnewspolitics

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