09/07/11 — Church places hundreds of flags to honor those who died Sept. 11

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Church places hundreds of flags to honor those who died Sept. 11

By Becky Barclay
Published in News on September 7, 2011 1:46 PM

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Al Nesbitt plants American flags in front of Faith Free Will Baptist Church in Goldsboro. Each flag represents 10 people who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. The church will hold a commemorative ceremony on the 10th anniversary of the attacks at 11 a.m. Sunday.

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Flags wave in the wind in front of Faith Free Will Baptist Church in Goldsboro.

Faith Free Will Baptist Church wants passers-by not to forget that 10 years ago, nearly 3,000 people lost their lives, so the ministers and congregation are flying flags to remind them.

The flags in the grassy area next to U.S. 70 West is one way the church is commemorating the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and on the Pentagon outside Washington, D.C.

"We wanted to do something that made a statement to the public that drove by on Highway 70 since there are about 45,000 cars a day that pass by here," associate pastor Christian Powell said. "We wanted to do something significant that would cause them to remember -- not just have something in our church, but do something to remind everyone."

Each of the 297 flags represents 10 lives lost that day. They stand in six rows of 48 flags each and one row of nine. The church used this design to resemble Arlington Cemetery.

"We thought about using crosses to represent those who lost their lives," Powell said, "but we felt like the flags would be more patriotic, and that the crosses would be more morbid. We do want to remember those who died, but we also wanted to celebrate freedom, patriotism and the sacrifice of those who have given their lives, and for it not to be just a somber occasion, but one that calls us to rejoice in being Americans."

Church officials felt that 297 flags whipping in the wind would certainly catch people's attention.

There is also a sign standing next to its field of flags explaining their significance. It states: "We will never forget. Remembering the 2,977 victims who lost their lives and their families."

The sign was designed by one of the church secretaries.

Powell said it's easy to forget even a tragedy such as this if you don't have a direct connection to it.

"That's the motivation behind this," he said. "We don't want people to forget what happened. We have children now who were not born then.

"I have 9- and 3-year-old sons and my 9-year-old asks questions when he sees the images, the news reports, and it's a great opportunity for us to tell him what happened and let it be a reminder to always value America and appreciate those who serve our country.''

Powell likens it to asking his parents and grandparents when he was a boy about World War II, Vietnam and Korea.

"I certainly wasn't born then, but I look at that event on 9/11 like a major event -- like my granddaddy talked about where he was when he heard that Pearl Harbor was bombed," Powell said. "This is our Pearl Harbor. 9/11 is when we were attacked, and I want to convey that to my children."

And through 297 flags sitting in a grassy area flying in the wind, the church also is letting the community know that its congregation loves America and is proud of its men and women in uniform -- the military as well as those in law enforcement, the fire department and EMTs and EMS personnel.

The church will have special services, just as it did on that night 10 years ago with a special called prayer meeting and the following Sunday with a special service dedicated to what had happened.

"It was remembering the victims," Powell said. "We had pictures and images on our screen. We had special prayer for America. And a special sermon was preached about what we could do as Christians and as Americans to help with what was going on."

And 10 years later, the theme will be the same -- remembering, except this time, also, it will be about the years since that fateful day -- and thanking God for the protection of and blessings for America, Powell said.

The flags will stay up through Monday.