FREEPORT — Whether it is raining, snowing, sleeting or hot and humid, the Freeport Flag Ladies have spent every Tuesday for the past 10 years standing at the corner of Main and School streets, waving to cars, honoring veterans and remembering the events of Sept. 11, 2001.
For the past year, the ladies – Elaine Greene, Carmen Footer and JoAnn Miller – have also been planning a memorial weekend for Sept. 9-11 in Freeport.
The women, with the help of town officials, businesses, organizations, veterans and their families, say they have created a weekend to remember.
“This is all about honoring our veterans, those who care for this country, for those who have made a difference,” Greene said. “We want people who see these events to care about what has happened in the past 10 years. We want them to think about it, to care, to act, to vote, to become involved. In a big or small way.”
Town Council Vice Chairman Rich DeGrandpre said the Flag Ladies have become a fixture in the Freeport community and are never deterred by weather, health or other responsibilities. He said he is proud of their hard work and dedication.
“The Flag Ladies have spent the last 10 years sacrificing their time for this cause,” he said. “I know that the community is proud of them and the whole state of Maine (is), too.”
This weekend, the Flag Ladies have planned events to honor fallen soldiers, emergency responders, police and firefighters. There will be a candlelight vigil, concerts, a photo documentary, military displays and a laser light show.
All the events are free, even through it cost the Flag Ladies $20,000 to secure the laser light show.
“This is about love and gratitude,” Greene said. “We know there are families who are struggling right now. We want people to bring their families and enjoy the show without worrying about the cost. We want to celebrate the American spirit and liven people up again. We want to wow them.”
Sande Updegraph, executive director of the Freeport Economic Development Corp., said the Flag Ladies have consistently conveyed a positive message for the people of Freeport and those that visit the area.
“I believe that the Freeport Flag Ladies have had a strong, positive impact on Freeport’s image of a small town with a national reputation for quality products and a hometown feel,” she said. “I see them every Tuesday morning – as do visitors and residents – waving and smiling to pedestrians along Main Street. They represent the effect a few individuals can have with their consistent, clear message.”
On Sunday, Sept. 11, at 7:30 a.m. there will be a traditional Flag Ladies 9/11 tribute at Main and School streets. At 3 p.m. there will be a dedication of the Sept. 11 monument and unveiling of the steel obtained from the Twin Towers. A 20-foot slab of metal was brought to Freeport in May, and has been cut into two pieces. The memorial will be placed at the corner of Main and West streets and will resemble the Twin Towers.
The 10th-anniversary memorial celebration was initially intended to end the Tuesday appearances of the Flag Ladies, but they have decided to keep it going for a while longer.
“This is not about us. We do not want to take attention away from the events of 9/11 and put it on us, that is not where it belongs,” Greene said. “The attention belongs to those who’ve lost their loves, to the sacrifices many families have made, to the people who fight for this country.”
Greene said she hopes Gov. Paul LePage and members of Maine’s congressional delegration will be present. U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, in a prepared statement called the women “civilian sentinels of freedom.”
“The Freeport Flag Ladies’ stalwart dedication to our flag has helped heal our nation by harnessing the best of who we are and what we stand for, whether in the best of times or when facing adversity,” Snowe said.
Greene said the anniversary is a time for people to reconnect to the American spirit and honor soldiers, first responders, families, those who lost their lives in the attacks and everyone who has fought to make the country a better place to live.
“There are so many people to honor,” Greene said. “It is about all of us, together, understanding that this country is worth loving, working for and sacrificing for.”
The Freeport Flag Ladies – JoAnn Miller, left, Carmen Footer and Elaine Greene – have been publicly acknowledging military veterans and remembering the events of Sept. 11, 2001, every Tuesday for 10 years.