Making a place of remembrance

CARPENTERSVILLE – Drive over the hill on Main Street in Carpentersville, and your eyes meet a field of red, white and blue.

It is striking – 2,976 flags, each as tall as man – stand at the center of Carpenter Park.

“2,976. It’s just a number when you talk about it, but here, you really see the [magnitude],” Jerry Christopherson said.

The flags, neatly erected in rows, make up a 9/11 Memorial Healing Field, and each one represents someone who died as a result of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. The flags were obtained, assembled and set up by volunteers led by Christopherson this week.

The Healing Field in Carpentersville is one of 40 set up around the country this week and is the only one in Illinois. It is meant not only to honor those who died on 9/11 but also to remind Americans of the impact of the tragedy.

“3,051 children lost a parent that day,” Christopherson said. That fact and others are written on simple, somber markers at the center of the field of flags.

“On 9-11-01, 343 firemen and 60 police and port authority officers did not come home for dinner,” another sign reads. It is set up next to a dinner table with three empty chairs.

“I don’t think we should ever forget,” said Christopherson, a lifelong Carpentersville resident and a Vietnam veteran.

The field elicits an emotional response.

“There is a total chill factor here,” said Joe Bartel of Mount Prospect. He works in East Dundee, but like many others on Wednesday, he stopped his car mid-commute to take the Healing Field in up close.

Bartel joined the Navy Reserves after 9/11, he said. “I had always wanted to do it and then when 9/11 happened, I said, ‘I’ve got to step up.’ ”

Others stopped briefly, too, silently walking among the flags, moved by the display. A blond woman placed a hand over her heart. A dark-haired man rubbed his brow and lowered his head.

The Healing Field was set up over several days and required the help of more than 100 community volunteers to come together.

Joe Alger, the president of JA Frate in Crystal Lake, organized a drive to Utah to pick up the flags and on Saturday, Sept. 3, members of seven local police agencies escorted the materials parade-style into town.

On Sunday, Sept. 4, about 90 volunteers gathered at Otto Engineering in Carpentersville to assemble the flags and the following day, 50 more volunteers set the flags up in Carpenter Park.

The Healing Field officially opened with a ceremony Wednesday and will remain up until Sunday evening.

The field will be staffed by members of local churches from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day and to the side under tents will be places to write letters of support to soldiers in war zones overseas.

There also will be a place to buy the flags that are part of the memorial field. The flags can either be taken home after Sunday or sent with a note to American troops.

“The profits from the flags will go to the local Boys and Girls Club,” Christopherson said.

At the Healing Field through Sunday

• Cell Phones for Soldiers: Used cellular phones will be collected at the field. For each phone donated, a $5 prepaid phone card will be sent to troops in war zones and in military hospitals.

• Life Source Blood Drive: Sign up at LifeSource.com to donate blood at Carpenter Park on Sunday during memorial hours.

• U.S. Air Force flyover: At 3 p.m. Sunday, an F-16 fighter plane from the U.S. Air Force will fly over the Healing Field.

For information about the Healing Field, visit http://www.healingfield.org/carpentersville-il-2011/

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