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Longboat Key Thursday, Sep. 13, 2018 4 years ago

Letters to the editor LBO

Letters to the editor
by: Eric Garwood Managing Editor

Town's tribute to Sept. 11 was moving

Thank you to the town of Longboat Key for placing 2,977 flags on Gulf of Mexico Drive to honor the lives lost on September 11, 2001. 

The graceful tribute was poignant.  And touched me.  

Even though my family owned a condominium on the island for over 40 years (until a few months ago when my husband and I moved to downtown Sarasota), I had never been in the area on the anniversary of Sept. 11.

This year, when I searched on-line for local 9/11 services, I saw a notice about the flags on Longboat Key.  Though the flags are placed annually, I hadn’t known about them. 

When I drove onto the Key on Sept. 11, I didn’t know exactly where the American flags would be.  

I entered Longboat Key by car from the south.  As I crossed over New Pass onto the island, I immediately saw an American flag on the right side of Gulf of Mexico Drive.  Then another one.  And another.  And another.  In a line.  A continuous line. 

The flags spoke volumes.  Without sound.  They quietly told those coming onto the island that Longboat Key was honoring each of the human lives who died that day.  The day that changed history, took lives, shattered families and left deep, gaping holes in hearts of survivors, responders, workers, families, and friends, and that would continue to make people sad and sick and even kill them years later. 

As I drove mile after mile up the Key, my eyes couldn’t believe what I saw - each flag carefully placed in the ground in even measurement about 20 feet apart, standing about two feet tall with the precision and dignity of the rows of white tombstones that line Arlington National Cemetery.  

The placement of the 2,977 flags was like the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.  that draws one into it, to capture the enormity of the lives lost, to feel the collective sorrow, and to touch the etchings of the individual names of the dead. 

My heart was especially touched to see the flags as far north as my prior family homestead at Windward Bay.  I kept driving.  Following the flags. 

The 11-mile long tribute of American flags made me proud of, and grateful for, Longboat Key.  And the flags comforted me. 

The physical drive, the distance, the number of flags, their positions - gave me private solace.  

I was living and working in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 11, 2001.  My twin sister was in Brussels on a business trip.  I was scheduled to fly to Asia on business at noon that day.  One of our dearest, closest friends, was flying on a business trip the same morning from Dulles International Airport to Los Angeles.  

Near the Ohio border, terrorists took control of her airplane, American Airlines Flight 77, and turned it around.  After  hundreds of terrifying miles in the sky, the terrorists slammed the airplane into the Pentagon. 

Seventeen years later, the memories are still vivid, the sadness still hurts.  This year was extra hard. 

This year was my first Sept. 11 without my last living parent or stepparent -- my Father who first brought us to the Colony Beach Club in the early 70’s and purchased the family property on Longboat Key in 1977, is deceased.  A chasm in my foundation.  

And little did I know leading to this year’s anniversary that the chasm was compounded.  

Shortly before the clock struck Sept. 11, 2018, I learned that the husband of my girlfriend who died on Flight 77, himself a dear friend, also has died.  He is among  the many people who have suffered physical illnesses and/or immense sadness in the years since 9/11.

Thank you, Longboat Key for honoring Sept. 11.  Thank you for providing a public place to pay private tribute. 

In my case, the flags held me up, giving the Earth beneath the tires of my Jeep a stronger foundation upon which to hold my heavy heart.  

The flags gave those of us on earth a safe place, to both honor, and feel, the losses.  

A sacred experience on sacred ground. 

Linda Haller Sloan


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