1 of 4
Bebeto Matthews, Associated Pres
Mourners embrace after placing flowers for loved ones in a pool at ground zero at the World Trade Center site during memorial ceremonies Saturday.

There were plenty of things Launie and Michael Belnap could have done with their three children on a sunny Saturday morning.

But Sept. 11 is important to the Riverton couple, so they brought Christian, 8, Braiden, 5, and Baylee, 6 1/2 months, to Sandy City Hall where row after row of American flags note each person who died in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center three years ago and all the military men and women who fought for freedom since then.

"It's important to show respect to the fallen soldiers and the people who lost their lives in 9/11," said Launie Belnap, shifting young Baylee in her arms. "We have to let the families know, the people serving, the people who have fallen, the people who lost their lives, that we will always have them in our thoughts and prayers.

"It's also important that we educate our own children in the patriotism that they hopefully will develop for our country," Belnap said.

She and a crowd of others gathered in Sandy for a ceremony near "The Healing Field" of donated flags attended by such dignitaries as Gov. Olene Walker, Sandy Mayor Tom Dolan and Elder Bruce D. Porter of the Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Walker said every American remembers the morning that brought "the unbelievable news" that terrorist pilots had hijacked American commercial jets and slammed two into the World Trade Center and one into the Pentagon, with a fourth — apparently diverted from its intended target by plane passengers — fatally crashing into a Pennsylvania field.

"It has brought a new patriotism to our country and our state," Walker said, praising the courage of the firefighters, police and civilians who did what they could to help, along with the military personnel now in combat and those who have died.

The Healing Field was created by Paul Swenson, owner of Colonial Flag, who originally wanted some kind of visual reminder of how many people died on that memorable day.

For an Eagle Scout project, Jacob Kincaid Smith, 14, this year created laminated biographies complete with color photos for each person who died in the 9/11 attacks. He enlisted more than 200 volunteers who helped make the large cards that are fastened to each flag and tell a little about each man and woman who perished that day.

One shows the smiling face of Jonathan Eric Briley, 43, an audiovisual technician for Windows on the World, a family man, a Baptist church deacon and amateur musician. He used to tell his sister Gwendolyn "there was nothing like" the sunrise he could see each work day from the 110th floor of the north tower of the World Trade Center.

Later, at Camp Williams, Walker addressed hundreds of military personnel and their families on the day that the governor ordinarily honors the Utah National Guard — which just happened to fall on Sept. 11 this year.

"Utah has a higher percentage of our service men and women (in the Utah National Guard) deployed than any other state," she said. "Last year, at one time, it was 75 percent."

Walker praised Guard members for their passion for freedom and democracy, their hard work, good training and organization, and willingness to "step up and perform according to the highest standards of the military."

She also thanked the families who are left behind and who cope with loneliness, worry, family issues and sometimes financial pressures.

One young couple, Sgt. Spencer Willardson and his wife, Yulia, had much to celebrate on Saturday. Spencer Willardson, who received the Bronze Star, was deployed to Iraq only 11 months after they were wed, and his Russian-born wife worked 50 hours a week and kept busy with LDS Church activities during the 13 months he was gone.

"I didn't want to think about what could happen to him," Yulia Willardson said. "I knew he would be gone, but I didn't think it would come so quickly — only three days' notice. I missed him very much."

Since his return Feb. 29, the couple celebrated by traveling to California and Russia, where she has family, and visited friends in the Ukraine, where they both served LDS Church missions.

Best of all, they now are expecting a baby. "We've had some experiences that were hard," Spencer Willardson said, grinning, "so I hope we are prepared."

Sgt. Greg Bolton, who also received a Bronze Star for serving in Iraq with the 145th Field Artillery, said he and others who met citizens of that country found the people there were "delighted" that America has helped them. "They're not under the crushing thumb of Saddam Hussein anymore," Bolton said.

That sentiment was shared by 2nd Lt. Wayne L. Lee, who said those who have returned from the Air National Guard note that regular citizens in Iraq are happy that because of American intervention, girls in Iraq now can attend school, citizens can move about freely, wells are being dug, electrical power is being restored, medicine and food are available, and life is better than before.

Lee suggested that a small group of radicals in Iraq "put on a show" for Western TV cameras, giving the false impression that the entire country is in turmoil and all people there want the Americans out. But his impression was that people who live away from the combat areas are relieved the United States has freed them from an oppressive regime.

At another event Saturday evening, non-violence was the theme. The "Freedom Fair" — sponsored by the Utah Democratic Progressive Caucus, Equality Utah and "Catalyst" magazine — featured TV actress and anti-nuclear activist Mimi Kennedy, co-star of "Dharma and Greg," as its keynote speaker.

"I feel the spirit of those who died on 9/11/01 motivating me to seek world peace as the only worthy memorial to them," Kennedy told the Deseret Morning News after her speech.

Although the crowd was sparse, Kennedy said she "wanted to be with the peacemakers who are honoring 9/11." And specifically Utah, she said, "because the dust of those towers falling looked exactly like my atom bomb nightmares as a child."

Terrorism, she said, "can only be made worse by nuclear bombs and nuclear threats." Kennedy opposes any resumption of nuclear testing, and opposes the proposed "bunker-buster" bombs and "mini-nukes."

Non-violence, she said, is not the same as pacifism. A pacifist, she says, "witnesses violence but does not answer it." A non-violent person, she says, "condemns violence and answers it with everything but violence."

"Having nuclear weapons makes us suicidal," she said, "because it blows back on us."


"For as long as you remember me, I am never entirely lost." — A note found in a scrapbook at the Sept. 11 family center at ground zero


Contributing: Elaine Jarvik

E-mail: [email protected]