News 12 at 6 o'clock / Wednesday, May 11, 2011
AIKEN CTY, S.C.---Almost ten years later, the symbols of September 11 still have an impact. Today one of them was flying high at the entrance of Savannah River Site.
The Patriot Flag was made after the terrorist attacks to honor the people who died. A group of businessmen from Escondido, California came up with the idea and donated the flag. It's traveling 50 states in 50 weeks and has already made it more than 79,000 miles.
This is one of the rare times trespassing is accepted on Savannah River Site. People stopped to take pictures and have their pictures taken. Few have forgotten September 11, 2001, and they don't want to forget this.
"It's very, very large and overpowering," said one visitor.
The Patriot Flag is the largest American flag ever flown at 30 feet tall by 60 feet long. It weighs 75 pounds and took 16 firemen to unfurl and raise it.
It's dirty and tattered after weeks of travel and display, but it's celebrated for what it represents.
"We're here today to express our freedoms today and the fact we do have the liberty to have something in their remembrance, in their honor," said Battalion Chief Greg Potts with Savannah River Nuclear Solutions. Chief Potts and 15 other firemen raised the flag.
The names of the more than three thousand people killed nearly ten years ago are displayed on a banner. Above that banner flies the flag, specially made after the terrorist attacks. It's been flapping in the wind now for nearly ten years.
"It's very emotional," said U.S. Navy veteran Greg McCallum. "it's hard to explain. Many of us have sons and daughters that have fought since that time, and some haven't come back. It just brings you back to that day."
"It gave me goosebumps, cold chills running down my spine," said Patty Baldy, who came to see the flag. "And to see all the names of the people on it -- we will never forget that."
Today, everyone, including first responders, remember.
"It pulls at your heart strings, it makes the hair stand up on the back of your neck, just to know what it represents, what they went through," Battalion Chief Potts said. "Hopefully none of us will have to go through that again."
Patriotism is still running high just ten days since the government announced Osama bin Laden's death. News 12 is told the flag looks even more impressive at night with the lights on.
"It's an honor for Jackson to have this here," said Battalion Chief Potts. "I just wish more people knew what's going on and why it was here, the school kids and all. Bring them down to see it."
This location along Highway 125 is the Patriot Flag's first stop in South Carolina. The flag will make five stops total in the Palmetto State, including this Saturday (May 14) at Barnwell's Veterans Memorial Park. There will be a celebration called A Day of Heroes starting at 10am.
The flag's journey will end at Ground Zero, the site of the twin towers in New York City, on September 11, 2011, the ten-year anniversary.