Tacoma remembers a day the nation can't forget

A sunny day greeted the approximately 1,500 people who turned out for yesterday morning’s Harbor Flag Dedication ceremony at Thea’s Park in remembrance of last year’s terrorist attacks that claimed the lives of nearly 3,000 Americans.

City and county officials, members of the police and fire departments and ordinary citizens all were present to reflect on that momentous day on Sept. 11, 2001 when terrorists brought down the twin towers of the World Trade Center and struck the Pentagon.

The ceremony also reflected hope for the future, with the dedication of a giant American flag, the unveiling of a peace globe and the blessing of a ceremonial peace pole.

The $150,000 project was funded by donations and co-sponsored by the City of Tacoma and Metro Parks Tacoma.

“We have created a place where we will remember the past,” said Tacoma City Councilman Bill Evans, who led the efforts to make the Harbor Flag Dedication a reality.

Mindful of the fact that history will record the terrorist attacks of a year ago and how America has responded, Evans described the flag plaza as a gathering place that will also provide hope for the future.

“This is one of the most historic sites in Tacoma,” he said.

Master of ceremonies Ross Hjelseth, president of the Tacoma Metro Parks Board, agreed.

“Today, we gather to remember,” he said. “Today we are going to celebrate the future with symbols.”

Among those symbols was a 38-by-20-foot American flag – the largest in Tacoma- that was raised atop a 100-foot flagpole; meant to greet visitors as they enter the Port of Tacoma.

During a solemn ceremony, the flag was slowly raised by members of the Tacoma Fire Department honor guard to the peak of the pole, then slowly lowered to half-staff.

The Tahoma Girls Choir sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” as the flag was raised and “Let There Be Peace on Earth” as the banner was lowered to the pole’s mid-point.

Ironically, or perhaps fittingly, a jetliner flew overhead as the flag reached the top of the pole.

“We lift this flag today for all to see,” said Tacoma Mayor Bill Baarsma.

An eight-foot in diameter steel globe with stars representing Tacoma’s sister cities was also unveiled during yesterday’s ceremony.

A ceremonial pole proclaiming “May Peace Prevail on Earth” in 12 languages was dedicated as well.

For all the talk and hope for peace, Tacoma Police Chief David Brame reminded people why they were at the Harbor Flag Dedication.

He compared the unprovoked attack on America on Sept. 11, 2001 to the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor by Japan on Dec. 7, 1941, noting the latter was an attack against military targets while last year’s terrorist attacks killed mostly civilians.

“Sept. 11, 2001 is our new day of infamy in this millennium,” he said.

He added, “We will achieve peace through strength.”

The ceremony concluded with the Tahoma Girls Choir’s “Let Peace Begin With Me.”

“America’s reaction comes down to each of us as we leave here,” Hjelseth said, echoing the sentiments of the song. “It’s one person at a time making a difference.”

In the background, the newly raised American flag fluttered in the breeze on a warm summer morning.