Never forget: How Virginians are making sure September 11 is remembered

Posted at 12:06 PM, Sep 11, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-11 12:42:39-04

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. — Virginia's official flag of remembrance for September 11, 2001, was raised outside Midlothian High School on Monday marking the 22nd anniversary of the terrorist attacks. A teacher read the elements of the Freedom Flag as students and staff watched the flag rise to half-staff.

The flag's blue background represents all Americans united together for freedom.

Three white stripes symbolize the first responders who worked tirelessly during and after the attacks.

The white star stands for all who lived and died for freedom.

Henrico restaurant owner Richard Melito first designed the 10 elements of the Freedom Flag on a napkin shortly after the attack.

Melito’s Freedom Flag Foundation has since shipped the symbol across the country.

“We're now in touch with 15 new schools in New Jersey, Ohio, Kansas, and Indiana who this morning are raising the Freedom Flag,” foundation president John Riley said.

Remembering 9/11

Riley shared a personal connection to the flag.

His best friend and fellow Midlothian High School alum, Doug Ketcham, died in the Twin Towers.

“I got engaged and got married in April 2001. And it was a no-brainer to ask [Ketcham] to be one of my groomsmen. So that's the last time I saw him April 28, 2001,” Riley recalled. “Having carried a hole in my heart for all those years after 911, losing a best friend, I said, I want to get involved with this group.”

Scholastic News sent millions of copies of the Foundation’s children's book about the flag to schools across the country. It’s part of a larger effort to teach the younger generation to never forget that day 22 years ago.

Melito and Riley are now working to introduce legislation at a state and national level to designate the Freedom Flag as the official flag of remembrance for September 11.

North Carolina’s Senate has taken up their legislation.

Behind Harris Hall at Virginia Commonwealth University, students and veterans wearing rucksacks hiked 110 laps on campus in remembrance of the hundreds of first responders who died in the attacks. The 110 laps represent the 110 floors of the towers.

VCU Student Veterans Association president Jimmy Weber, who served four years in the Navy, led the Richmond hike.

Remembering 9/11

“We came together that day to say united we fight,” Weber said. “We're all together as one, diverse. This is America. We’re a melting pot.”

Marine Corps veteran Nancy Johnson noted that many students who walked past the ceremony were born after 9/11.

“This day is becoming more and more forgotten as the generations are younger and younger,” Johnson said. “We’re trying to remind people that patriotism just means that we band together as a country in times like this.”

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