Two full decades after 9/11, the heartbreak and the horror of that four-pronged terrorist attack still linger, and a free memorial to the lives lost in the al-Qaida assault that day now graces St. Louis’ Forest Park.
Starting Sept. 4, an organization known as Flags of Valor St. Louis is commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and the attempted attack on Washington, D.C., with more than 7,600 flags arrayed atop Art Hill till Sept. 12.
The flags, which each measure 3 by 5 feet, honor the 2,997 New York first responders who died saving lives or trying to do so on 9/11, as well as all of the U.S. troops who have died in the war on terror since then.
The Art Hill display incorporates six large boards showcasing photos, specially made dog tags and information on each of the victims of the 9/11 attack.
The memorial includes the 13 troops killed in the Aug. 26 suicide bombing at the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan. Those slain troops included 11 Marines, one soldier and one sailor, all but one of them in their early 20s and one of them – 20-year-old Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jared Schmitz – from Wentzville.
St. Louisans Rick and Susie Randall founded Flags of Valor – America’s Heartland Remembers 10 years ago to commemorate the first decade since that devastating Tuesday morning in Lower Manhattan in specific and in the U.S. in general. The memorial recurred for 9/11’s 15th anniversary, and momentum and support for it have since blossomed.
As a fundraiser this year, individuals can sponsor an Art Hill flag for $50, with every effort made to bestow that flag on the relevant Gold Star Family (the immediate family member or members of a serviceman or servicewoman slain during a time of conflict), according to a press release.
The fundraiser has a goal this year of $400,000, with all proceeds going to a quartet of area military nonprofits: Greater St. Louis Honor Flight, the Missouri Military Memorial Foundation, the Patriot Training Foundation and Semper Fi & America’s Fund.
Flags of Valor – America’s Heartland Remembers, 314-805-8080, flagsofvalorstl.com