Prescott Valley Healing Field marks fateful date
PRESCOTT VALLEY - Bangkok native Mai Vogelaar stood out with a purple headscarf that identified her Muslim faith as she arrived with her husband, Harold, for the 9/11 Healing Field Ceremony Tuesday evening.
"We are sad what happened here," Vogelaar said, reminiscing about the terrorist attacks by Islamic extremists that killed nearly 3,000 people Sept. 11, 2001. She said she attended the ceremony Tuesday to show support "for innocent people who were killed and their families."
Vogelaar said she was in Chicago during that fateful day, and moved with her husband to Prescott Valley in 2007. Harold is retired from teaching at the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago, and said he and Mai will teach a six-week course on Israel/Palestine beginning Thursday at Yavapai College.
The Vogelaars were among at least 250 people who attended the hour and 15-minute ceremony beneath a darkening, cloudy sky that hovered above the Civic Center grounds.
Participants listened to bagpipes and choirs, the Arizona Firefighters Massed Band and speeches, and watched an honor guard consisting of Prescott Valley police and Central Yavapai Fire District firefighters. They also observed the draping of two large American flags from the roof of the four-story Civic Center building.
The ceremony marked the first time that event organizers placed 1,100 flags on the grounds as the Healing Field spread to Prescott Valley. The flags, all made in the United States, contain names and brief biographies of victims of the terrorist attacks.
The man who started the Healing Field 11 years ago in Sandy, Utah, flew in to speak at the ceremony. Paul Swenson, president of Colonial Flag, said the Healing Field has spread to 523 communities.
However, Swenson did not take credit when contacted after the ceremony. He pointed to the sky and said, "God started it. I happened to be listening."
The Healing Field came to Prescott Valley thanks to the involvement of Town Councilwomen Mary Mallory and Lora Lee Nye, who also spoke during the ceremony, and volunteers they assembled.
Participants also heard the National Anthem performed by Kelly Gebhardt Taylor, an invocation and moment of silence that Councilman Don Tjiema, a minister, conducted, as well as speeches by former Mayor Carm Staker, Mayor Harvey Skoog, Arizona House Speaker Andy Tobin and Paul Nies, chief of the Central Yavapai Fire District. Sanford Cohen of Arizona's Hometown Radio Group served as master of ceremonies.
Contacted after the event, Mai Vogelaar said, "This country is liberty and justice for all. That made me proud to be in this country."