Pepperdine flags memorialize 9/11
Last month, the anniversary of 9/11 was marked throughout the U.S. with prayers, speeches, memorials – and nearly 3,000 American flags planted on a sloping campus lawn in California.
Pepperdine University in Malibu first installed the emotional display in 2007 after a student suggested the idea of honoring an alumnus who had died on Flight 93 that crashed in Pennsylvania on 9/11. Several passengers, including Thomas Burnett, the alum, fought back against hijackers who had intended to hit a target in Washington, D.C.
Student-volunteers pitched in to carry out the initial hard work of placing the anchors that would hold the Pepperdine flags. It took many days to prepare the ground so that the hundreds of copies of Old Glory could wave proudly year after year.
Each September, the flags go up to salute not only the Americans killed on 9/11, but also first-responders who gave their lives to rescue others. As for non-Americans who died that day, flags of other nations, such as Japan and Israel, are raised as well in Malibu. The college also hosts a 9/11 memorial service in Heroes Garden, which sits on a nearby bluff.
The stiff wind that blows off the nearby Pacific Ocean flutters the flags, and motorists traversing the Pacific Coast Highway often pull over to marvel at the thousands of billowing banners. They are taken down after about two weeks to wait for the next commemoration.
Ryan Sawtelle, who came up with the idea of the display in 2006, and Chris Garcia, who helped to bring it to fruition, are credited with inspiring the Pepperdine tradition. Both were members of the Young Republicans.
Sawtelle recently told a California news outlet that the notion of thousands of flags on campus came to him because he sensed that people were becoming “complacent with the events of [9/11]. I thought they always needed to be remembered in the biggest way.”
Garcia noted, “That each one of those flags represents a victim still brings me to tears to this day.”
Their project, which inspires others, remains aglow in both of them. The two, who live near the university, are involved in service efforts in the area. “I believe in the need to serve others,” said Garcia.
Along with flags, helping others is another way to salute those who fell on 9/11.
(Thanks to Pepperdine’s website for details about the flags.)