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Sandy Journal

Healing Field Honors 9/11 Victims

Oct 04, 2016 03:12PM ● By Kelly Cannon

Three thousand flags representing those who died on Sept. 11, 2001 were displayed at Sandy City Promenade. (Kelly Cannon/City Journals)

By Kelly Cannon | [email protected]

From Sept. 9 to 11, the Sandy City Promenade was covered in thousands of waving American flags in honor of the victims of 9/11, U.S. soldiers who lost their lives, police, firemen and fallen search and rescue dogs. Called the Healing Field, the tribute drew thousands of spectators to give their respects. 

The idea for the Healing Field came from Paul Swenson, the owner of Colonial Flags, a week before the first anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Sawn Swenson, the national director of the Colonial Flags Foundation, said Paul was trying to visualize how many people were killed during the attacks. 

“He wondered what it would be like to see those people standing out in a field. It’s so many people but it’s hard to absorb that number until you see it,” Sawn said. “He thought of how he could do a tribute. Then he thought, ‘I run a flag business. I could post a flag for each person.’”

Paul scrambled around to find a location where he could put 3,000 flags to represent the 2,996 people who died in the attacks. The only place that worked on such short notice was the Sandy City Promenade. 

“He went to family and friends and they put the flags up together. We didn’t mark the field with what we were going to do. It was just kind of a solemn tribute,” Sawn said. “We didn’t even know if anyone was going to come. Then 50,000 or 100,000 people came and word spread.”

Word quickly spread that Colonial Flags was behind the display and soon other areas were asking if the company could come and create the same thing. Colonial Flag Foundation was then formed. 

According to Sawn, the first year many people asked if they could take one of the flags home. 

“We were just bombarded with requests from people who wanted a flag to take home that we decided to sell the flags at a reasonable price and donate the money,” Sawn said. “Now the basic premise of it is a fundraiser and that’s how the nonprofit foundation started.”

While the soldiers, the police and the firemen have been honored in the past with a separate display, this was the first year the search and rescue dogs and K-9 units were honored. Sawn said that earlier this year, the last of the search and rescue dogs who worked on 9/11 passed away. 

“They had a procession and the dog was practically blind and really sick and it was walking into the vet to get euthanized and as they brought the body out, they had a flag over it and all the firemen were saluting as the dog came out to go be buried,” Sawn said. “It was really emotional.”

The display had 90 flags posted for the search and rescue dogs, each with their picture, a tag and a ball. The Colonial Flag Foundation also asked local police dog units to come and provide demonstrations to show the public what type of work and training they do.

Sawn said the overall goal of the Healing Field is to not only not forget about the events of the day but to also focus on the hope that was created afterward.

“We were all unified as a country and it seemed like it was one of our best times in history, as bad as that whole event was. It’s an overall symbol of trying to unite the community and unite the country,” Sawn said. “The flag is a symbol of all of those.”