Commemorative flags in town centerThe one hour discussion last night at the regular Monday meeting of the Amherst Select Board was one of the more heart wrenching experiences of my 30+ year involvement in civic engagement.
I had thought about bringing along the Ground Zero flag but thought one of my Trolls would say I was using it as a prop, or contacting a couple dozen people to show up as a sign of public support.
But in the end decided to let the issue speak for itself. Let the reminder of that day -- that awful, awful day -- take center stage. The spirit of 3,000 slaughtered Americans can't be ignored.
I took a quick photo of the Board with my iPbone from my front row seat about half-way through the discussion and grudgingly prepared my 1st breaking news bulletin: "Select Board votes 3-2 NOT to fly the commemorative flags annually on 9/11."
Then even more ominously, Chair Alisa Brewer expressed doubt about the Board reaching consensus and asked almost rhetorically if they should even come to a vote because avoiding a formal vote would simply keep the current once-every-five-year policy in place. I reedited my tweet:
"Select Board pocket vetoes annual flying of commemorative flags every 9/11, avoids taking a vote."
But then Chair Alisa Brewer, who is the most experienced member of the Board, threw down the gauntlet by making the motion to support annual flying. An unusual break in protocol as the Chair never make motions. Runner up most experienced Board member Jim Wald seconded the motion.
Now I thought they would return to a 3-2 vote against annual flight, but at least it would be a matter of public record.
Then, thankfully, Connie Kruger came up with the idea of adding the President's call for a "National Day of Service" (Town Manager Musante calmly crafted it into the motion) and a sea change took place.
The three least experienced Select Board member, who previously expressed doubt about annual flying, almost instantly came into the fold. The motion passing unanimously.
In the end, a margin far better than I expected.
But still, bittersweet. What happened that terrible day is forever seared into our memories and nothing will ever change that.
The presence of 29 commemorative flags, I hope, will bring us some small degree of comfort -- just as it did those three firefighters who raised a borrowed flag over the smouldering rubble of what was only hours before, those majestic Twin Towers of glass and steel.
For the youth now flocking to our college town, I sincerely hope the flags will serve as a simple reminder, so they pause for a brief moment to acknowledge the pernicious price we paid that otherwise bright & beautiful morning ... simply for being Americans.
The cost of freedom.
Amherst Select Board votes unanimously to fly commemorative flags EVERY 9/11 rather than once every 5 years. pic.twitter.com/GBlb0mcpzp— Larry Kelley (@amherstac) September 1, 2015
AFD annual 9/11 ceremony is at Central Station 9:45 AM