by Beth Altena
“We all have a 9-11 story,” said Sue Bodenner, one of the organizers of the West Michigan Healing Fields, which will remember and honor those lost 10 years ago in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Bodenner, along with chiefs of local fire departments, members of the Kent County Sheriff Department, Rockford Police and local boy scouts, unveiled plans for West Michigan Healing Fields tribute and memorial.
Bodenner heard of the Colonial Flag Foundation’s Healing Fields projects and brought the idea to members of the Rockford Area Community Endowment (RACE), who took on the project as a good fit for the organization and for West Michigan. On Wednesday, May 11, before television cameras and news reporters, the West Michigan Healing Fields plan was officially presented.
Cannonsburg Ski Area, 6800 Cannonsburg Road, Belmont, will be the site of 3,200 American Flags representing each one of the people whose lives were lost on 9-11.
“The memorial we are here to talk about began as a simple way for one person to visualize and comprehend the sheer enormity of human loss that occurred in the terrorist attacks,” said Art Spaulding, Honorary Chair for the West Michigan Healing Fields, Chairman and CEO of United Bank and former Chairman of the American Bankers Association. Spaulding said that to him, the Healing Fields bring to memory the bank’s legal team, who were located in the twin trade towers and who all perished that day. Area resident Jack Vander Baan, described the loss of his daughter, Barbara Edwards, who was on the flight which terrorists crashed into the Pentagon.
The memorials will be open 24-hours a day and include several planned events, including a Salute to Heroes to honor rescue personnel and first responders, a memorial service held by the American Legion, moments of silence in commemoration of the crashes of the American Airlines and United Airlines flights at 8:46, 9:03, 9:43 and 10 a.m. on September 11 and a “Lessons Learned” expression of tribute by West Michigan students, including poems, essays, visual arts and music composition.
Individuals, businesses and groups are invited to participate by sponsoring a flag—which can be dedicated to an individual—for just $75. After the memorial events, the flags can be kept as a continuing tribute.
“This is a very exciting opportunity to recognize the anniversary of this event,” said RACE member and former Rockford mayor Neil Blakeslee. “As tragic as it was, this was one of the most important events in the history of our country and certainly affected people locally.”
In addition to sponsoring a flag, which is limited to the 3,200, limited opportunities for higher levels of sponsorship exist, from Independence Sponsor at $500 to a Freedom Sponsor at $10,000. For more information or to purchase a flag, visit healingfield.org/west-michigan-2011.