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‘The Most Patriotic Thing You Will Ever See’
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Tuesday, September 12, 2023
 

While flags flew at half-mast across America Monday, the Magic Valley’s flags flew tall and proud.

A plethora of flags lined Pole Line Road and other city streets while 3,100 flags commemorating those who died in the 9-11 terrorist attack 22 years ago flew in a “field of healing” north of the interstate.

The granddaddy of all these flags was an American flag a quarter acre in size whose stars stood 5 feet tall.

Unfurled in the Snake River Canyon Monday evening, it slowly revealed itself as it emerged from a pouch, billowed and twisted and turned in the wind before it lay flat out, raised up in the air and did what resembled a backflip to the cheers of onlookers lining the canyon wall and the Perrine Bridge.

“This is the most patriotic thing you’ll ever see,” enthused a veteran.

The Magic Valley 911 Memorial was the brainchild of Angela Johnson, a stay-at-home Mom. In the middle of the COVID pandemic she decided people needed a lift, a semblance of unity.

So, she bought 250 small American flags and handed them out to adults and children who paraded across the Perrine Bridge waving them as they walked.

Last year the annual ceremony took on a turn of humongous proportions as a pumpkin farmer from Pleasant Grove, Utah, brought a flag that stood 78 feet tall, and 154 feet wide and weighed 400 pounds.

Made by Colonial Flag of Sandy, Utah, it’s been strung across six canyons since it was first flown nine years ago. But the pumpkin farmer Norm Paxton told Johnson that the Snake River Canyon is the most beautiful of them all.

“The flag is the biggest known to have ever flown ever flown in America,” said Paxton. “There was a flag as big at the Hoover Dam, but it was just draped over the dam. This one flips and flaps in the wind. It truly flies.”

Those involved with Follow the Flag used boats to affix a parachute cord holding the flag in a long rectangular pouch to both sides of the canyon ahead of the unfurling ceremony. Monday evening a few rappelled down the canyon wall to release the parachute cord allowing the flag to emerge from its pouch.

Most people watched from along the canyon rim or from the Perrine Bridge—many of them wearing stars and stripes T-shirts and tennis shoes. Other watched from kayaks and other boats on the turquoise colored river below. A father ran to fetch his young son from the rock wall lining the canyon, while a long line of traffic slowed to a crawl as motorists tried to catch a glimpse of the unfurling.

Robert Casebeer stood near a screen showing the World Trade Center and pictures of that tragic day  and told how he had lost his best friend when that friend rushed into the towers to try to save people.

Two A-10 Warthogs screamed overhead while a bugler played “Taps” and soldiers dressed in military dress uniforms shot off a 21-gun salute. Firefighters and police officers turned on their sirens and bagpipers added to the din.

This is America—patriotism at its best,” said Tiffany Zimmerman, an agent with Keller Williams.

Paxton said he first few the flag in a canyon near his home in Pleasant Grove near American Fork. A long line of people took turns carrying the 400-pound flag up to the site where it was strung across the canyon. They then helped veterans up the three-quarter-mile path so they could sit beneath the flag as it whipped in the wind.

Paxton recalled one man taking out his cellphone to record a story his 98-year-d father told about intercepting two fighter pilots out of Tokyo Bay as Hiroshima brought World War II to an end. The son told Paxton he’d never heard the story before.

“The veterans feel in a safe place as they sit beneath the flag so they bring up stories they’ve never told at home,” Paxton said. “We honor, heal and inspire. What we’re trying to do is unite people. In a world that’s trying to divide us, we can all be united for the love of the flag.”

The Patriot Day Flag Memorial, which features 3-by-5-foot flags standing 8 feet tall in perfect rows, is standing at the Crossroads Point Business Center across from the Flying J.

“It’s been 22 years today and already 9-11 is fading in our memory,” said veteran Dan Hall as he stood amidst the flags in his crisp white shirt and American Legion cap. “I had a gentleman who’s as old as I come up to me today and try to tell me the 911 attacks happened during Vietnam. I said, ‘No, they happened in New York City and Washington, D.C.,’ and he said, ‘No joke. It seems like I kind of heard something about that.’

“It’s important we remember 9-11 not only to honor those who were killed but so that it never happens again,” he added.

The flag hanging over the Snake River Canyon will be lit at night with 700 million candle lights emanating from the canyon golf course. Ceremonies honoring first responders and others will be held from 3 to 7 p.m. each afternoon through Friday, Sept. 15.

The flag will be taken down Saturday morning.

“We’ll have to find a time when the wind is right to catch it on a boat,” said Paxton.

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