Saint Louis Art Museum, Art Hill honors 2,996 victims of 9/11/2001 with flags for each

Art Hill at St. Louis Art Museum - 2,996 flags for each 9/11 victim

Art Hill in St. Louis holds many memories for most of the region’s citizens.  The sloping six acres of graceful lawn ends at the bottom of the hill where it meets the formal fountains of the grand basin at the foot of the St. Louis Art Museum.  It is the perfect spot for a picnic and walking through Forest Park.  During the winter, it is the place to go to sledding when the snow falls. Wood fires warm cold bodies on those days.

But on 9/11/2011 a new deep memory warmed the hearts and souls of those who visited Art Hill to see the 2,996 nine foot tall flag poles and large flags that have been spread across the six acres.  These flags honor the lives and memory of those who died on 9/11/2001 when our country was attacked.

Saint Louis Art Museum nine eleven 2,996 flags with information about each victim

Each flag pole has information about the person who died on 9/11

Each flag honors one victim with not only a flag flying in the breeze, but with a long sticker naming the individual along with information about their life and death.  Many of these slips of papers show a photo of the person. It is a very moving remembrance of that day and the changes to our lives because of it.  The flags show the immensity of all the lost lives, and the intimacy of each life.  The flags will be in place for a week, and on September 19th they can be purchased.  The idea for this way of honoring the fallen victims came from Rick Randall Jr.

All the flags spread out on the grassy slope look like a garden of stars and stripes.  Nine Eleven, 2011 brought about a sense of unity, that we Americans have felt so little of lately.  It brought back memories of the unity and shared open hearts we all felt on the days following 9/11/2001.  Shorty after 9/11, I created a Peace & Healing garden in the front of my house.  It seemed we all needed to share.  I  put a basket of hand made paper with ribbons tied to one end.  I asked people to add their prayers, thoughts, hopes and dreams.

Peace and Healing Garden for 9/11/2001 by Linda Wiggen Kraft

Basket with papers, pen and instructions for Peace & Healing Garden

Soon the bush behind the basket filled with notes, most in English and some in other languages.  One person shared how they went out of their way to visit this garden because it helped in their healing.

I wrote about this garden in the October 2001 issue of The Healthy Planet.  The message of the writing seems as important today as ten years ago.  We still need healing for so many of the world’s woes.  Please let these words be an inspiration to plant your own garden of peace and healing.

Time for a Peace and Healing Garden (published in the October 2001 issue of The Healthy Planet)

The wounds inflicted on the American soul and soil on September 11, 2001 instantly changed the world. Our shock, horror, disbelief, sadness, sorrow, anger, and grief are all forever etched in our individual and collective bodies, minds, hearts and souls.

How do we respond and rebuild our lives? We help those who have lost family, friends, co-workers and jobs. We go on with our lives in the most positive ways we can. We confront our attackers.  We defend ourselves.

How do we heal our souls and our soil?  We heal with prayers, love, tolerance and understanding.  We plan and plant our Peace and Healing Gardens.

Peace and Healing Garden by Linda Wiggen Kraft for 9/11/2001

Peace & Healing Garden shortly after 9/11/2001

A Peace and Healing Garden?  A garden may at first seem like a trivial pursuit with all that needs to be done.  Yet a Peace and Healing Garden can be a monumental tool of transformation for individuals, nations and the world. The Victory Gardens of World War II were a symbol of victory over the enemies of other nations.  They helped unify and feed our country.  These gardens were appropriate for then, but now we need something different.  We need a victory of a different sort.  Yes we need to confront and defeat our attackers, but we need to go beyond that.  We need healing and peace as our primary goal. We need to heal the recent wounds to America, but we also need to heal the wounds suffered by the rest of the world. We need to work for peace by not just defeating those who attacked us, but also by defeating hatred, fear, ignorance, poverty, and intolerance.  These are our real enemies.  They are not limited to any national border. They lurk within every border, and in varying degrees find a way into each of our lives.

A Peace and Healing Garden can help us heal and bring about peace.  Gardens can heal us on all levels: physically, psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually.  A Peace and Healing Garden can feed us physically.  We can plant foods, herbs and medicinal plants that will nourish our bodies.  But right now we need a garden that can feed us, heal us and transform us psychologically, emotionally and spiritually. We need to process those horrific events and proceed with our lives.  We need to remember, honor lives lost and living, and live our lives in the most loving, moral and life affirming way. Planning, planting and tending to a Peace and Healing Garden helps us do all of this.

We start with the soil.  Our American soil has never been attacked in this way.  The effect of this action has changed and united our collective psyche.  The soil of our Peace and Healing garden is ground zero of this garden.  This soil is sacred ground, a symbol of our now changed lives. It is also our mother earth whose arms can reach up and console us as we shed tears upon her body, lay fresh cut flowers from her bounty upon her, and plant our seeds. These are seeds of peace, healing, hope and safety along with the seeds of plants that will grow.

The act of choosing the place for a Peace and Healing Garden starts the healing process.  It may be in an area of an exiting garden or new garden space in the yard.  It can be in a public park, at a school, at work, or at a church, synagogue, mosque or temple. First define the garden area, then honor and bless the soil.  In public places it helps to have a sign stating that the garden is a Peace and Healing Garden where healing and peace can grow. It is a safe and sacred place where sorrows, grief, sadness, fears, memories, hopes, dreams, peace and love can be expressed, shared and given to the soil of mother earth. Here these emotions and aspirations will be heard and transformed by the garden.  They will nourish the garden and help it grow.

A Peace and Healing Garden may bloom with candles, fresh cut flowers, letters, flags, photos and those things befitting our needs right now.  There may be few garden flowers growing at this time of year. Yet we can plan for the future. The act of touching the soil by planting seeds, bulbs and plants that will grow green again next year connects us the to patience, healing and peace of nature’s growth.  It also connects us to something bigger than ourselves whether we call it Nature, Great Spirit or God.  These connections are what heal us and bring peace to our lives so we can bring peace to the world.

We can care for, watch over, and return to the sacred spaces of our gardens as the fall and winter months give us time to wait for the glory of spring.  These quiet months of nature will give us time to heal our wounds, honor the lives that were lost and let our resolve to bring peace to the world grow. Here with time and love our souls and soil will heal.

 

 

 

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4 Responses to Gardens of Remembrance for 9/11

  1. I really like your writing style, great info , thankyou for putting up : D.

  2. ilene h says:

    I’m 15 and i am SO glad i am able to say i helped my city put up these flags for the 9/11 ten year anniversary. That day made me step back and remember that i don’t always need to be on the phone or be somewhere i Want to be. It made me remember that i need to tell those i love how much they mean to me. That day also made me realize that i could lose everything quicker than i can get it, that i need to be more appreciative of those blissful moments. I cried that day when we started and when i stood back and looked at all of those 2,996 flags. My aunt and i put up about 30 or 40 of those flags. Yes, i know that doesn’t sound like much but i’m glad i put up those few instead of none at all like i could have chosen to do. I am 15 and so appreciative i had the chance to put a small dent into the 2,996 flags on art hill. I don’t wish at all that i was somewhere else on that day.

    • Linda Wiggen Kraft says:

      What a wonderful thing you did to help put up these beautiful flags. It was a very big thing to put up the 30 or 40 flags. Thank you for making this memory so moving and honoring of those who perishing on 9/11

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