Six months after the Jan. 8 shootings in Tucson – to the hour – hundreds of people gathered at University of Arizona's Centennial Hall to view and stitch the National 9/11 Flag.
The Tucson visit and Friday ceremony were part of a nationwide tour of the flag led by The New York Says Thank You Foundation.
The flag was located at 90 West St. and was destroyed in the aftermath of the attacks on the World Trade Center, said Jeff Parness, the foundation's founder and president. The foundation now is working to restore the flag, visibly stained by post-Sept. 11 soot, to its 13-stripe configuration.
"It is a real honor to be here six months after Jan. 8 as we prepare for the 10-year anniversary of Sept. 11," Parness told about 250 people who gathered at Centennial Hall after the flag was displayed at the north side Safeway where the shooting occurred and also a local memorial.
"This flag doesn't just tell the story of what happened on Sept. 11, but also what happened on Jan. 8," he said. "That's why we're here."
Once the flag is complete, it will become part of the collection at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, which is slated to be dedicated on Sept. 11.
"This flag is a symbol of what this country represents, not only to Americans, to people around the world," said Ron Barber, district director for Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' office. Barber, who is still recovering after having been shot in January, returned to work this week.
Rhee, who spent two dozen years serving as a U.S. military surgeon, said the opportunity was an honor for both the UA and for the Tucson community.
The medical director of University Medical Center's Trauma and Critical Care, who helped treat the Jan. 8 shooting victims, Rhee also said: "This is so humbling and so much of an honor that we can take the time to honor our service members."
Thus, each stitch is a sign of the nation's resilient spirit and a show of the national community's solidarity, Parness said.
"There are so many stories," he said, explaining that war veterans, survivors of disasters, school children and other have stitched the flag. "Our goal is to make this flag whole again."