Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Patriot Flag Ceremony

On the third day of my internship was a ceremony for the Patriot Flag. For those that don't know the Patriot Flag is a giant, 30ft x 58ft to be exact or the size of a regular volleyball court, flag that will be flown at Fort McKinley. There is another flag that is signed by those participating in the ceremony along with a sort of guest book style book that you could sign. The flag will be displayed in each of the 50 states before it is flown permanently.

We started by shoveling the sidewalk of snow then brought weights up from the gym to weigh down the banner of the names of those that died in the terrorist attacks during 9/11. Afterwards we placed the banner and worked on the row of flags that adorned the side of the Civic Center. Afterwards the firefighters signed the flag and I stood back, not wanting to overstep my bounds in signing it I was told by the chief to sign it. As I was apart of putting the ceremony together I should be able to sign it. A humbling moment I am truly grateful for. Being able to sign something that will be on display at the memorial at Ground Zero was simply daunting. I didn't register it at first. I just signed it, but as the day drove on and I continued in helping with the ceremony the magnitude of it started sinking in.

I think the moment in which the gravity hit me was as we were raising the giant flag. It took a bunch of us to unroll the flag and as I looked up (picture left) to see the flag towering over me, blocking out the sun and casting a deep shadow. We waved the flag and as you can see from the pictures below it was a pretty impressive view.

Folding the flag was a task in itself. It took all of Helena Fire and a few others to fold it. The flag weighs 60lbs. We folded it up then set it inside it's case until the ceremony started.

We dressed in turnouts except those who were in the honor guard. They wore their Class A uniforms. We stood in a line as the honor guard brought the flag up to the podium. We watched as the governor, mayor, and a few others gave speeches and then we folded the flag. The ceremony finished and we packaged the flag and sent it to FedEx where it could be shipped to the next place of ceremony.

Those who died in the Towers; Police, EMS, the 343 firefighters, and civilians were given a fitting ceremony. They were honored and will forever be honored by the thousands of people who will share in seeing the flag flying in the breeze, those who signed the flag, and those who scribbled their chicken scratch in the signature book. They all came together with respect for the fallen. They all parted with the ceremony engraved in their minds.

I shared in a once in the lifetime moment with a brotherhood that I haven't fully been welcomed into but being able to participate in this, and having them share something so special with me put me one step closer. It's a memory I'll never forget.

You can read the Helena IR article here and watch the YouTube video here. Until next time, stay safe, and stay tuned!

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