The weather was nearly the same 10 years ago, perhaps a bit warmer, but just as clear, the sky just as blue.
A decade ago, though, Thea’s Park was filled with hundreds – perhaps thousands – of people awaiting the dedication of three symbolic additions to the small patch of grass on the shoreline of the Foss Waterway.
Bill Evans, then a city councilman, had organized the effort to use the park and the symbols as a way to commemorate the first anniversary of the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, D.C., that had already become known simply as 9/11.
Choirs sang, honor guards marched, Baker Middle School children represented the future, and senior citizens from Narrows Glen represented the generation that had built the country following World War II. A multi-colored parachute was removed from a 10-foot steel globe with stars placed for each of Tacoma’s sister cities and ports.
Then, a giant flag was raised on a 100-foot flagpole. After it reached the top, it was lowered to half-staff in honor of those who died the previous year. Just as it reached that height, as though on cue from an unseen director, a breeze from Commencement Bay unfurled it.
For Evans, the day was perfect, but it hadn’t come easily. Just a few days after the jetliners had struck the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and crashed in a field in rural Pennsylvania, a Tacoma native had been on a boat leaving the Foss Waterway for the bay. Wouldn’t it be fitting, thought Jonathan Feste, if a large flag – known in the maritime realm as a harbor flag – could be placed in the park at the mouth of the waterway.
Perhaps, Feste wrote in a letter to Evans, the flag could be placed on the first anniversary of 9/11 and send a message that a better response to horrific violence was to embrace the world rather than recoil from it.
“It could remind the community so you don’t forget the tragedy but you create something positive,” Evans recalled Tuesday, the 10th anniversary of that dedication ceremony. The words and names on the stones and bricks that make up the plaza at the base of the flagpole helped remind him of all the work that was done and all the people who made it happen.
There are the names of the companies that donated money and supplies, the unions that gave donations and labor, the regular folk who bought a brick or three to fund the project.
“The whole world is my family,” a quote from the park’s namesake, Thea Foss, is inscribed at the base of the pole.
“Thanks to all who protect and serve,” reads one of the bricks.
“Peace Love Hope and ‘Go Cougs,’” read another.
Evans read with delight another inscribed with “Walk the Road of Peace” before noticing that it had been placed by the staff of the Pacific Northwest Shop, the store he owns in the Proctor district.
“I ought to come down and read these more often,” he joked.
Evans once hoped the site would always play host to the city’s 9/11 commemorations, but other venues have taken on that role. Just a handful of skateboarders and a few strollers were using it on Patriot Day, the 11th anniversary of the attacks.
Despite its remote location, despite the fluctuation in its use – from handfuls during the week to many hundreds when it is used for festivals – the little park remains clean. (Perhaps a protective eye is kept by the skateboarders who were allowed to build a “manual pad” and remove dozens of metal cleats on the benches.)
Not a bit of graffiti has marred the big blue globe (if you don’t count the black-marker addition of the Azores in mid-Atlantic Ocean). Even the peace pole with “May Peace Prevail On Earth” in a dozen languages is in pretty good shape after 10 years in a location subject to strong winds and plentiful rain.
There are still blank bricks at the base of the flag, and Evans thought perhaps they could be sold to raise money for repairs and improvements. But few repairs are needed, and the simple symbolism of the installations require no improvement.
“It’s good,” he said as we walked back to the car. “It’s good.”firstname.lastname@example.org 253-597-8657 blog.thenewstribune.com/politics @CallaghanPeter