Monday, January 24, 2011

Ten Years of Healing Field Flag Displays

The terrorist attacks of September Eleventh in 2001 had a horrific impact on us as a nation and as individuals. Paul Swenson, saw the "sheer enormity" of the human loss evidenced by the rubble, carnage and confusion at ground zero. The horror and despair of the scene brought no comfort. Paul wanted to acknowledge the scale of the sacrifice with a positive image that would also offer hope and comfort: a display that would offer healing.

Paul envisioned a display of three thousand United States flags, a Healing Field, to honor those who died on 9-11. Not a pile of rubble bleak against a gray smoke streaked sky but ordered lines of flags posted on a grassy field, fluttering in the breeze against a blue sky, the enormity of the event symbolized by a positive and beautiful image.

This was certainly a big idea. Many big ideas never come into fulfillment; however, this would not be the case with Paul Swenson and his vision of a Healing Field. He set out to make his vision a reality. The vision took planning, coordination and determination. In the effort, Paul discovered a host of problems that required solution. He encountered naysayers who could not see the vision that Paul saw so clearly. Disregarding doubters Paul pressed forward creating detail plans, organizing committees, inspiring volunteers.

On the first anniversary of the terrorist attack, the first Healing Field appeared on the lawns south of the City Hall in Sandy, Utah. Each September since, a Healing Field has emerged on the same grassy fields to honor the victims of the 2001 attack.

Although through the Colonial Flag Foundation, Healing Fields have spread around the country, the Sandy Healing Field retains Paul Swenson's personal involvement. My firsthand association with the huge flag displays began with Sandy Healing Field 2010, as I joined Paul and Sandy City workers in laying out the field. Later volunteers arrived to set up the flags with Paul leading the effort. When guests and officials gathered for the program, Paul was there to run the sound system. As the ninth annual Healing Field ended, Paul worked again with the volunteers to remove and furl the flags. However, as the sun set on the 2010 display, Paul began planning with Sandy City officials for the Tenth Anniversary Sandy Healing Field.

Utilizing the Colonial Flag Foundation's program developed by Paul Swenson and his associates, Sandy City will sponsor the 2011 Sandy Healing Field. Cities all around the country create successful Healing Field displays with this program, but Sandy City has an added bonus, Paul Swenson's personal involvement.

Yes, big ideas often fail to materialize; however, this is certainly not the case with Paul Swenson's big idea. Paul's vision of three thousand flags will rise again this September, offering a positive image while giving hope and comfort, a display of healing. A Healing Field.



  1. I've heard about Healing Field from a friend who lives in Utah. His support of the activity is contagious. His Mom used to shop flags for school activities and display purposes.

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