Giant U.S. flag pays tribute to 3,798 victims of terrorism


CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The gymnasium at J. Frank Faust Junior High School was temporarily transformed Saturday into a memorial for the thousands of American lives lost to terrorism since 1970.

A 63- by 35-foot flag was laid out on the wooden floor, with space between the stripes for people on foot and in wheelchairs to view the names cross-stitched on patches of cloth sewed to the stripes. The bottom stripe is plain red cloth with no squares of remembrance.

The 50 stars are 2- by 2-feet with a peace rose and the state's initials cross-stitched in the center.

The squares were sewn together and assembled by Peggy Henning, Geri Rickfels, Judy Spencer and Rene Ulrich, all of the Hampton Roads area of Virginia. Rickfels, a seamstress for Colonial Williamsburg, sewed all the stars onto the blue patches.

Elizabeth Barnes of Norfolk, Va., is the originator of the project. Her mother-in-law, Ann Barnes of Chambersburg, is the local coordinator.


Elizabeth Barnes said she started the flag in October 2001 and the last stripe was completed in May 2003. The flag was displayed in Jacksonville, N.C., for the 19th remembrance ceremony for those lost in the Marine barracks bombing in Beirut, Lebanon, she said.

She said most people who view the flag are overwhelmed by the size of it.

The flag memorializes 3,798 people who lost their lives to terrorism. The squares commemorating lives lost in the Sept. 11, 2001, attack in New York City have the World Trade Center towers stitched on them. Others have New York Police Department or armed forces logos. Several Bible verses are scattered throughout the stripes.

Elizabeth Barnes verified all the names memorialized. Names of eight missionaries are on the flag, including the three Catholic sisters and one lay woman murdered in El Salvador by Salvadoran National Guardsmen in 1980.

Barnes said she wants to raise awareness of terrorism and the pain it causes.

"I firmly believe that terrorism is caused by prejudice, ignorance, and hate and not by any certain race, religion or country," she said.

Through advertising and articles in the Chambersburg Public Opinion, the Navy and Army Times and Defense Link and in brochures placed in stitchery shops, Barnes heard from about 1,300 men, women and children who wanted to sew squares. Her husband, James, designed the pattern, she e-mailed it to the volunteers and they returned the finished squares to her.

According to material put out by the Memorial Flag Project, Barnes started the flag as a way of coping with the tragedies of 2001.

"At the time, I had no idea it would turn into something so large," she wrote. "I had originally intended for the flag to be for the victims of Sept. 11 alone, but when the name list for Sept. 11 was decreased, I knew I had been given the opportunity to remember some of those from the past that may have been forgotten.

"The names that for too long have not been said in remembrance, the people that have died simply because they wore a U.S. military uniform; the ones who have died because they believed in Jesus Christ and wanted to spread the word of God to others; the men who went to Beirut to help 'keep peace'; the 17 sailors who died because they stopped to refuel in a 'friendly' port; families torn apart by a bomb placed on a plane that exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland; these are just a few examples of those remembered on the Memorial Flag."

Eydie Kanner of Chambersburg said she lost track of how many of the squares she stitched, but thinks it was about 110, many of which were for those who died on Sept. 11.

"I love to stitch, and I wanted to volunteer my time and materials," she said. "I felt I got in touch with each person I did.

"I felt extremely bad for the families, for the whole country, that this had to happen. I wondered about each person, about their lives."

Kanner viewed the entire flag for the first time Saturday.

"It gives you goose bumps when you see the blank ones, because you know there's more to come," she said.

The Memorial Flag relies on the generosity of others in order to travel. Donations may be made to The Memorial Flag Project, P.O. Box 31, Scotland, PA 17254.

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