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Michelle Tessier, Deseret News
Addison Heinhold, 8, center, plays with Kacie Hanson, 8, right, and Sara Heinhold, 7, at the 13th annual Utah Healing Field in Sandy on Wednesday, Sept. 10, 2014.
What do you tell a kid about why it happened? I've tried to tell her about the heroes on the plane that went down in that Pennsylvania field.

SANDY — Ronie Heinhold's children laughed as they ran and played between the rows and rows of billowing flags Wednesday.

They're young, between 3 and 8 years old. They don't comprehend how deeply people in the United States were hurt on Sept. 11, 2001, or how many lives have been lost. But as they talk each year about what happened that day, Heinhold believes they will.

"I just think it's important that they know what happened that day," she said. "It's hard for adults even to comprehend. You see the flags, and to imagine that many people that lost their lives, it's just overwhelming."

Heinhold and her children have come from their Eagle Mountain home nearly every year since the Healing Field began in Sandy, and she intends to continue the tradition as they grow.

The annual memorial, one of several around the country, posts 3,000 flags in front Sandy City Hall each year honoring those who died in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, as well as Utah's servicemen and women who have died in action since. The Healing Field, sponsored by the Homes for Heroes Foundation, will be up through Sept. 17 and offers a daily flag raising program at 7:30 p.m.

Wednesday's flag raising and opening ceremony included patriotic musical numbers, as well as remarks from Sandy Mayor Tom Dolan and Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes.

Heinhold's 8-year-old daughter, Addie, had questions this year that her mother struggled to answer. She wanted to know why someone would want to hurt so many innocent people.

"What do you tell a kid about why it happened?" Heinhold said. "I've tried to tell her about the heroes on the plane that went down in that Pennsylvania field."

For now, Addie said she thinks the flags are important "so you can tell other people to come and so you can remember what happened."

Sara Heinhold, 7, said she learned about being respectful, and she wants to talk about seeing the flags when her class discusses 9/11 at school.

In a booth near the center of the display, Michelle Holley, a volunteer from Homes for Heroes, answered questions for visitors and sold flags to raise funds for the Healing Field.

Holley said she was surprised at the emotion that overcame her as she took a quiet walk through the field, straightening the flags as she went.

"When you're in the middle of it and you look around and you think this represents a person, every one of these flags does, it's just super touching," she said. "It puts things into perspective."

Holley has seen many visitors at the field become emotional as they have visited, or talked with families like the Heinholds as they have come to teach their children.

"It means a lot to us to come and volunteer our time," Holley said. "It's just moving to people."

Email: mromero@deseretnews.com, Twitter: McKenzieRomero