My daughter Lizabeth called home from NYC this morning, sharing a bit about her time at the 9/11 Memorial. She was struck by the vast expanse of names — especially those listing a mother and her unborn child — and the peaceful tree-lined walkways.
It inspired me to visit a touring exhibit of the National Unity Flag at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, where I met Randy Cooney — the Phoenix realtor who first conceived of the flag after hearing members of Congress sing together on the U.S. Capitol steps in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.
The National Unity Flag contains every state flag, plus a rectangular center panel with the names of those killed on 9/11. Students from Ironwood High School here in the Valley were among the first to work on the project, which also involved an Arizona quilters association and other fine folks.
The National Unity Flag is part of an exhibit featuring memorial cards for 2,996 victims — most with biographical information and a photo. The cards were created, says Cooney, before victims who were pregnant were listed along with their unborn children.
Reading these cards, and seeing all those faces, makes clear the enormous loss to individual families and our country. It also opens an inspiring window into the incredible diversity of those lost, the amazing diversity of the American people.
Cooney hopes to bring the flag back to Scottsdale for next year’s commemoration of 9/11 — getting the word out to Valley schools ahead of time so teachers can plan field trips to see the exhibit. For children not yet born on 9/11, he says, the exhibit is a tangible way of demonstrating the size and significance of what happened.
I’ll be visiting the 9/11 Memorial in Lower Manhattan next month, and am so grateful to those who create and share all the memorials, big and small, that make clear the unity, resilience and hope of our people.
Note: The National Unity Flag was signed in 2002 by all 100 senators, including Ted Kenndy — whose signature is marked by a yellow ribbon. Follow the flag on Facebook at www.facebook.com/NationalUnityFlag.
Coming up: Photo tour of the Hall of Flame Museum in Phoenix, From arts school to medical school, Kennedy Center Partners in Education program