Patriot Flag flies over Juneau

Posted: Monday, December 27, 2010

Siara Kelly was 10 years old and in third grade when the events of Sept. 11, 2001 began to unfold. Franklin Peters, 70, was on a Holland American Cruise going into Glacier Bay.

Ap Photo/The Juneau  Empire, Klaus Stolpe
Ap Photo/The Juneau Empire, Klaus Stolpe
Members of the Capital City Fire & Rescue and Juneau Police Department fly the Patriot Flag over the State Capital Building in Juneau on Friday as part of the 30-by-60-foot flag's 50-state tour. The tour was organized by firefighters and other public safety personnel nationwide to honor the men and women killed during the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.

The two stood Friday morning outside the State Capital Building at Fourth and Main Streets in the biting cold of the winter wind, ages apart yet connected by one thing: patriotism.

Kelly was preparing to sing the National Anthem in the Patriot Flag Ceremony, the raising and lowering of a 30-foot by 58-foot, 60-pound commemorative flag made to honor those who perished in the 9/11 attacks.

"To be asked to sing here is special," Kelly said as her father Paul, a paramedic firefighter, and mother Sandi, an EMS training officer, stood with members of Capital City Fire and Rescue and the Juneau Police Department to help raise the flag. "It is an honor. And to acknowledge what my parents and their colleagues do is an honor."

Peters, wearing his 82nd Airborne cap and coat from duty between Korean and Vietnam wars, defiant in the chill, was there to pay homage.

"I was in awe that day," he said remembering. "I was sad, angry, so many emotions. I wanted to be here to represent the people. To say thank you to those that perished that day and to say thank you to those who serve us now."

The Patriot Flag journey began Sept. 10 in San Diego, on a mission to fly in all 50 states in 50 weeks before it flies over New York, Washington, D.C. and Shanksville, Pa. on the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, The Pentagon and United Airlines Flight 93.

"I didn't believe it was happening," Dave Hurlbut, 55, said remembering getting out of bed on 9/11 and hearing the fateful news. Hurlbut was about to taps in the ceremony. "It is an honor to play here today. It is the least I can do."

The Patriot Flag flew Tuesday in Anchorage at the Fallen Firefighters Memorial. On Wednesday, it flew in Kotzebue with help from the Kotzebue Fire Department. The Ketchikan Fire Department helped its display in the First City on Thursday. On Saturday, the Fairbanks Fire Department and University of Alaska Fairbanks raised and lowered the Patriot Flag before it was raised over Santa's House courtesy of the North Pole Fire Department.

"We are quite honored that we got to participate," CCF&R acting fire chief Beth Weldon said after the ceremony. Weldon's sister-in-law was an American Airlines flight attendant on 9/11. "She called to tell me she was okay and to turn on my television. This has been a moving experience to say the least."

Aided by the JPD color guard and Sergeant Dave Wrightson, the CCR&R trained with tarps to prepare for the ceremony. Now as one cohesive unit they used a CCR&R ladder truck to raise the flag as Kelly sang the National Anthem.

After a prayer by Chaplain Sam Dalin, and with Fire Chief Richard Etheridge looking on, Deputy Mayor Merrill Sanford read a proclamation and signed the Patriot Book marking another official stop in it's "United We Stand, We Have Not Forgotten" theme.

On Christmas Eve, as Kelly sang, Peters listened and Hurlbut played, the massive ballet of flag in wind brought a peace on Earth feeling to the roughly hundred strong crowd that gathered.

Juneau's first responders slowly folded the flag among their numbers, moved it solemnly to a waiting vehicle, and drove it to Juneau International Airport to board an Alaska Airlines place en route to another agency in another town to pay respects.

"The bond between the fire department and the police department is very strong," Weldon said. "I am very honored today to stand here with members of the JPD and share this moment. It is a good way to remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice."

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