Hundreds of students, veterans, and community and service members came together for the 12th Annual Healing Field tribute event at Beach Park to memorialize the victims of 9/11 in Tempe, Ariz., Sept. 11, 2015 during Marine Week Phoenix.
The Healing Field is an annual gathering held by the Tempe Exchange Club to honor and sustain the memory of those who lost their lives by posting American flags in a grid formation throughout the park. Yellow ribbons are fixed onto the flagpole, representing first responders who perished, along with a brief biography of each 9/11 victim.
“It’s very gratifying to see the number of people in attendance here today,” said Michael Whitaker, the Exchange Club chairman, and the man responsible for starting the Healing Field ceremony 12 years sgo.
Marines in town for Marine Week Phoenix, along with other service members, were also in attendance at the park.
Staff Sergeant Brandon Smart, a participant from Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, was exceedingly moved by the event setup and ceremony, he hopes that his Marines have something meaningful to gain from the remembrance.
“9/11 is near and dear to all of our hearts because we lost so many great Americans, and for many of us, it’s the reason we decided to enlist,” said Smart. “I hope my Marines realize the great opportunities that the Marine Corps offers, to allow them to not only establish us a warriors, but brothers and sisters. We’re Americans and we want to be able to associate as humans, not just be the face to a war.”
Affiliates of the Exchange Club were thrilled to see the Marines present in the Valley of the Sun in concurrence with Sept. 11 observances.
“This is the biggest turnout we’ve had for this event and we’re happy that we are able to share it with the Marines, who are also out here, able to stand beside fellow first responders for 9/11,” said Mark Poisson, project chair and head of the local organizing committee.
The ceremony held at 5:46 a.m. represented the time the first plane struck the tower. Following the ceremony, members of the community joined together for a concert and candlelight vigil held on the evening of Sept. 11, 2015 to honor the memory of those who have perished.