National 9/11 flag to end 50-state tour in Joplin

ST. LOUIS (AP) — A flag left in tatters after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center will get its final stitches of repair on Sunday, the 10th anniversary of the attacks, at the site of another tragedy: tornado-ravaged Joplin.

The flag now known as the National 9/11 Flag was flying from a building near the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, and was later found shredded in the debris of ground zero.

Seven years later, survivors of a devastating 2007 tornado in Greensburg, Kan., used remnants of flags from their community to begin repairing the 9/11 flag. They started a tradition continued by others touched by disaster and tragedy, including soldiers and schoolchildren who survived the shooting rampage at Ft. Hood, Texas; World War II veterans who survived the attack on Pearl Harbor; and relatives of slain civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Even a piece of the flag Abraham Lincoln was placed on after he was shot was added.

The final stitches will be sewn Sunday at Missouri Southern State University as part of a day-long series of events to commemorate both the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks and the May 22 tornado that killed 160 people and destroyed about two-fifths of Joplin.

University spokesman Stephen Smith said people in Joplin feel a kinship with those who survived the attacks.

“Our area feels we have gone through our similar trauma and tragedy and the greatest thing about it is how the professionals — police, firefighters, EMTs — responded, and how the community responded,” Smith said. “It harkens back to the time after 9/11 when the nation grew together as one.”

The flag is overseen by the New York Says Thank You Foundation. Founder Jeff Parness said having the flag in Joplin “will be making a powerful statement that New Yorkers will never forget what people from small towns and big cities all across America did for us in our time of need.”

The flag has been on tour across America but will soon become part of the permanent collection of the National 9/11 Memorial Museum planned at the World Trade Center site.

Events in Joplin will begin Sunday with a silent tribute from 8:58 a.m. to 9:28 a.m. at Cunningham Park, a small park near the hospital destroyed in the tornado. The starting and ending times correspond with the moments when the two towers of the World Trade Center collapsed.

A fire truck will take the flag to Missouri Southern for a 10:30 a.m. service. Afterward, community members will be invited to help place the final stitches in the flag using material from some of the many American flags that survived the tornado. Stitching will continue until 5 p.m.

The commemoration in Joplin is among many around Missouri on Sunday.

Organizers of “America’s Heartland Remembers” in St. Louis say 2,996 flags will fly atop 10-foot poles in Forest Park, each carrying a bracelet with the name of a victim of the 9/11 attacks. The flags will remain up for a week and later be sold, with proceeds going to the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund.

Other services, like Joplin’s, will feature physical reminders of the tragedy. A ceremony Sunday night outside of Lee’s Summit City Hall in suburban Kansas City will include prayers, candle lighting, and the display of an I-beam from the World Trade Center.

Some events will honor first responders. A wreath-laying ceremony is scheduled for 11 a.m. Sunday at the Kansas City Firefighters’ Memorial. Also, several firefighters from the Kansas City area will climb stairs at Town Pavilion downtown as part of a nationwide fundraiser in honor of the 343 New York firefighters who lost their lives. Proceeds will go to the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation’s Survivors Fund.

Several interfaith events are planned around the state. In Columbia, people from Christian, Muslim, Judaic, Buddhist, Hindu and Baha’i communities will meet at the Islamic Center of Central Missouri for a procession to the Boone County Courthouse for a commemoration program.

Also in Columbia, the bells of the University of Missouri’s Memorial Union, Switzler Hall and Reynolds Alumni Center will toll at 7:46 a.m., the moment the first hijacked plane crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center; at 8:03 a.m., when the south tower was struck; at 8:37 a.m., when a plane struck the Pentagon; and at 9:03 a.m., when Flight 93 crashed in Pennsylvania after passengers overtook hijackers.

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