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Flag honors fallen

Victims of terrorism are remembered

Victims of terrorism are remembered

June 26, 2003|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

Intricately stitched by the hands of more than 1,000 people, the human toll of three decades of terrorism has been writ large upon a huge American flag conceived by a U.S. Navy wife from Chambersburg.

Elizabeth Barnes of Norfolk, Va., came up with the idea for the Memorial Flag Project after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that killed approximately 3,000 people at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and on a flight that passengers wrested from the terrorists over a field in Shanksville, Pa.

This Fourth of July, from 12:30 to 7:30 p.m., the flag will be at Shippensburg Memorial Park, weather permitting. The next day it will be laid out in the gymnasium of Faust Junior High School in Chambersburg from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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From an American military man killed in Amman, Jordan, in 1970, to three missionaries murdered in Yemen late last year, the flag depicts the names and related symbols of those who have died in a war on terror that began long before Sept. 11.

On it one can find the names of the 241 Marines killed when their barracks was bombed in Beirut in 1983; the victims of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1998; those who died in the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993; Oklahoma City in 1995; the 1998 car bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya; the victims of the USS Cole in 2000 and all those who perished when four hijacked airliners were used to strike at American targets less than two years ago.

"I kind of felt like they were being lost in the shuffle," Barnes, 26, said of the 183 people who died at the Pentagon. To honor them and the other victims, she conceived the idea of a flag on which all of the victims of Sept. 11 were named.

"It kind of spiraled, snowballed ... into this huge flag," she said.

By November of 2001, the number of victims had been reduced from initial estimates of more than 6,000 to about half that number. The decrease in victims meant there was more room for the names of those who were killed in attacks before terrorists struck American soil.

At first, Barnes posted some fliers at cross-stitch stores in the Norfolk area and got a dozen or so responses. Then the Navy Times did a story on the project that appeared on Christmas Eve 2001 and more than 500 fellow cross-stitchers responded.

The Armed Forces Press Services picked up the story the following July and another 500 or so people offered their services, she said. Barnes said she believes some squares were made by relatives since they asked to make squares for victims with the same last names.

Barnes said she researched FBI and U.S. State Department lists on terrorist acts committed since 1970 to find the names and the incidents chronicled on the flag.

The cross-stitch patterns were hand-drawn at first, but as the number of volunteers increased, her husband, Petty Officer 2nd Class James Barnes, developed computerized patterns to e-mail to them.

The couple are both graduates of Chambersburg Area Senior High School. James, 30, has been in the Navy for eight years.

The work of an estimated 1,300 people was displayed last October in Jacksonville, N.C., near Camp Lejuene for the 19th anniversary of the Marine barracks bombing. It was at Old Dominion University in Virginia for Veterans Day last year and in Washington, D.C., on Memorial Day.

The cross-stitched squares have been assembled into panels 10 feet long and 2 feet, 8 inches wide, according to Barnes. Four panels make up stripes one through seven on the flag and six panels are for stripes eight through 13. Each star on the blue field has the initials of a state and a peace rose stitched to it, she said.

When laid out for display, the flag is larger than the sum of its parts, as room is left between panels to allow people to walk between the stripes and read the names.

"Some people cry. A lot of people say 'Thank you,'" when they view the flag, she said.

The first name, from June 1970, is Maj. Robert Perky, who was killed in Amman, Jordan, in much the same way as Lawrence Foley, a civilian government employee, was gunned down last October, according to Barnes.

There are 3,799 names on the flag, all but one human. James Barnes said the name of a New York Port Authority police dog is included. The dog, buried with full honors when its body was recovered, was named Sirius, after the Dog Star.

The names are mostly American, but include those foreigners who died in attacks on U.S. soil.

Members of the armed forces have their service symbols stitched on their patches, such as the anchor, globe and eagle of the Marines. The World Trade Center is stitched onto the squares of those who died there. Missionaries are symbolized by crosses and the Star of David indicates those Americans killed in the bombing at an Israeli university.

The flag currently is stored in eight large plastic containers in the Scotland Avenue home of John and Ann Barnes, James Barnes' parents. Ann Barnes cross-stitched 10 or more of the squares herself and is serving as the local coordinator for the July 4 and July 5 events.

Elizabeth Barnes credited several friends, including military spouses, who helped bring the project together. Geri Ricklefs, a seamstress at Colonial Williamsburg, taught her how to use a sewing machine to sew the squares together and helped with sewing on the backing of each panel.

"The flag would not be completed without her," Elizabeth said. "I'm proud of the people that helped me."

And the flag is not complete now.

The last stripe has no names.

"Terrorism is a long way from being over and more people are going to die," Elizabeth Barnes said. "We always need to remember those who have died and those who will come after."

Those wanting more information about the project can visit the Web site at www.memorialflag.org.

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