HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Among the ways the country evolved to remember the 9/11 attacks has been a series of “healing fields,” large tracts of land covered in American flags in memory of those who died. The only West Virginia healing field is at Huntington’s Spring Hill Cemetery.
“It somehow takes on some kind of a power that is truly magical or spiritual,” said Kevin Brady, executive director of the Greater Huntington Area Park and Recreation District. “I’ve seen people walk toward the healing field, fall to their knees and start crying.”
Three years ago, Brady went to as many people as he could in Huntington about the idea of creating the memorial. It’s a temporary memorial set up in early September and kept in place for a few weeks. People buy flags for the field through donations. Brady said the goal was to sell 3,000 to commemorate all who died on Sept. 11, 2001, but the project became much more.
“We had people who would purchase flags for someone who died in the plane crash, or remembering a veteran lost at war,” he said. “We had family members buying a flag because they had a family member buried at Spring Hill.”
The sales far exceeded the goal and the annual event became a fundraiser.
“We wanted a memorial bell tower that would be there forever,” he said. “This year because of the strength of this community and the support they have shown we are unveiling and dedicating that memorial bell tower.”
The tower will stand only a few feet away from the grave of Dr. Paul Ambrose. The Marshall University doctor was killed in the plane which crashed into the Pentagon.
The bell is 600 pounds and made of bronze. It was forged in Cincinnati specifically for the location. It includes four images cast into its sides: the Marshall Memorial within the cemetery, the federal 9/11 commemorative emblem, the Veterans Memorial Arch in Huntington, and the healing field itself with a special dedication to Ambrose.
The bell will be unveiled Wednesday in a ceremony remembering the 12th anniversary of the attacks and the bell will sound during the ceremony.