Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Why are you standing here with a flag?

9/11/12 (Photo by Helen Thelen)

Today the provincial Amherst Select Board will hold a special meeting in the Town Manager's office at 3:00 PM to approve a one-day liquor license for Top Of The Campus, an upscale UMass bar; the Planning Board will meet in Town Hall at 7:00 PM to discuss medical marijuana zoning issues; and a "touring exhibit" about Guantanamo Bay, a prison for suspected terrorists, debuts at UMass .

Just another late summer day in the bucolic town of Amherst.

Well, except for the Fire Station ceremony at 9:45 AM at Central Station, in the heart of the downtown.  Unfortunately children will be in school and most of their parents will be at work.  Although town center will still be vibrant with college aged youth.

One of the blessings of being a "college town."

In other words, kind of like it was on THAT day 12 years ago.  Except for the ringing of the bells.  The constant clanging of the bells of St. Brigid's Church indicating something was terribly, terribly wrong. 

The main flag in town center will also be at half staff as ordered by Governor Patrick earlier today, even though President Bush made it a permanent day for the American flag to sink to a position of mourning.

And yes, as I have done since THAT day, anytime the town refuses to fly the 29 commemorative flags downtown I will stand in town center with an American flag starting at 8:46 AM for a two hour period to mark the time of the attack.

To remember the slaughter of over 3,000 Americans (if you count the workers who later died of diseases resulting from their rescue efforts at Ground Zero) murdered, simply because they were Americans.

The Select Board seems to think the commemorative flags are too "festive" even though we fly them on Memorial Day.  But if the commemorative flags were flown at half staff (as they did on the late morning of 9/11) it would be hard for anyone to misinterpret that.

Starting only a few years ago, without fail, a college aged youth would approach me curiously and ask why I was holding an American flag in the center of Amherst?  I would say, "Do you know what day this is?"  And they would respond with whatever day of the week it was.

"No, what is today's date?" After a brief pause, their facial expression would change as they would slowly nod their head up and down.

"Oh yeah ... 9/11."


Anonymous said...

Only two hours?

Larry Kelley said...

Even the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier change shifts every half hour.

Walter Graff said...

I don't know Larry. This sounds a bit festive to me. Wouldn't it be better to hold a black flag, or something less festive. Why am I thinking of those colorful Mexican outfits that Mariachi bands wear. Now THAT'S festive.

The American flag? The flag many lives were lost in protecting. The same flag that was depicted in a little statue based on a photo called Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima? I wonder if in the Americans taking Iwo Jima, if after the flag was set, the commander asked them to take it down because it was too festive. Maybe that is why they actually raised it twice so they could get the famous photo.

I wonder if Billy Eisengrein thought that raising the flag at the WTC site that day might have been too festive. I happened to speak to him this past weekend. Oh, he was there that day too, like I was. He's one of the guys in the famous photo taken that day. You know that one, where he and two other firefighters raised that flag on a downed flag pole. I didn't see them do it but I took a picture of it after they raised it. It's the photo they compare to the Iwo Jima photo.

I asked him what he thought of Amherst MA not allowing flags to fly on 9/11. He said and I quote "That town is fucked up". Yeah it sure is Billy.

You are the bad guy Larry. I'd still rather be in your shoes than this town which is considered the bastard child all over the state and is often the butt of jokes for the rest of the state and beyond. Maybe the H is silent because they lack heart. But as someone recently said to me "Have you ever gotten a look at the people in the Town Council".

I'll be on a class trip with my son at that time tomorrow but will be thinking of you and those I knew who perished. I'll also be wearing the shirt of Ladder 13/Engine 22 where seven people I know died doing their jobs that day. I hope it will not be considered too festive.

Larry Kelley said...

When I went to Ground Zero on December 1, 2001 (the fires were still burning) and talked my way down to Ground Zero by telling police officers the history of the commemorative flag I wished to fly, one of the cops said, "I've heard about YOUR town."

Anonymous said...

Larry, your romantic simplistm might be a great deal more tolerable and understandable if it weren't wielded like such a blunt instrument,

Larry Kelley said...

I do try to keep is simple.

Amazing really, how very simple it is.

Anonymous said...


Thank you. The whole world observes, and or recognizes the importance of this day, but here in Amherst you get tons of guff for pursuing. keep up the good work.


Larry Kelley said...

Will do!

Anonymous said...

Contrary to your two color cartoon world view, what you refer to is simplistic

That's not the same as. simple

I'm not surprised that this distinction escapes you,

Adam Sweet said...

Thank you, Larry!

Cambias said...

Bless you, Larry. Never forget.