No flags flown for 9/11 in Amherst

By R.P. Hitt

Hannah Cohen/Collegian
The Board of Selectmen of Amherst decided against flying special commemorative flags in remembrance of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in Amherst town. The decision was made in a three to two vote Thursday September 2 to extend the previous once every three years rule, to fly the flags only once every five years.

When the flags were first introduced coincidentally on September 10 2001 they were decided to be celebratory in nature. However, some town members such as Larry Kelley have pointed out that these flags are also flown for Memorial Day and Veterans’ Day.

“They should either fly the flags on 9/11 or not fly them on Memorial Day and Veterans’ Day,” said Kelley, who writes a blog called “Only in the Republic of Amherst.”

“People feel very strongly about this issue both ways,” said Stephanie O’Keeffe chair of the select board, “I can definitely see how both sides could be angry or upset.”

Two members of the select board had people close to them present at the 9/11 attacks in New York City, Diana Stein and Aaron Hayden. Both agreed that it was inappropriate to fly the flags on 9/11.

Hayden, who lost two dear friends on 9/11, said during the meeting that the flags were meant to celebrate something that changed the world in a positive way. He went on to say that the flags should only be flown on six dates, Presidents’ Day, Memorial Day, July 4th, September 22 the date women were allowed to vote, November 20 Gettysburg, and Human Rights Day.

Kelley argues that 9/11 should be added to the seven permanent days that the special 29 commemorative flags are flown, and has brought this issue to the select board every year since 2001. He was successful in 2002 and 2003, but the board decided not to make the decision permanent and instead vote on it every year.

Many residents and local students are upset by the board’s decision including the University of Massachusetts Republicans and Democrats. The UMass Democrats and UMass Republicans had an impromptu memorial service on the lawn in back of the Campus Center at 8:30 yesterday morning, and held a moment of silence for those lost on 9/11.

President of the UMass Republicans Justin Thompson thinks it is imperative to make sure the date is not forgotten.

“The purpose of this memorial is to remember a national tragedy,” said Thompson, “Not to make a political statement.”

UMass Democrats president Emily Jacobs was approached by Thompson and the Republicans to help with the memorial.

“It is important that we make sure this a non-partisan issue,” said Jacobs.

Brandon Tower president of the UMass Student Government Association also attended the memorial outside the campus center.

“Amherst got it wrong,” said Tower. “This memorial is the right thing to do. And I applaud the UDems and URepublicans for getting together and putting on such a significant event.”

After the ceremony was over the group walked through downtown Amherst planting American Flags in the grass along the sidewalk as they went.

Another memorial service put on by the town started at 9:45 in front of the fire station, but displayed no commemorative flags.

Kelley also applauded the efforts of the UMass political parties.

“[The flag] is a symbol of our country,” said Kelley, “Sure the United States isn’t perfect, but it is the best country in the world. And we should do anything else to remember that.”
Amherst did fly all American flags in town at half staff in remembrance of the lives lost on 9/11 and according to the once every five year rule should fly the commemorative flags next year for the 10 year anniversary of those terrorist attacks.

Bobby Hitt can be reached at [email protected]