After school on Monday, Sept. 10, 2018 Chesterton High School (CHS) staff and student volunteers, under the direction of CHS support staff member Mary Beth Whitmer, continued the tradition the O'Keefe family began in 2007 of placing 2977 small U.S. flags in the grassy area in front of the CHS Stadium along 11th St. in Chesterton. Each flag bears the name of a soul lost 16 years ago in the tragic attacks on America. The flags will be on display until the end of the day. The O'Keefe Family began this tradition the year after the 9/11 tragedies and have continued ever since.
“This year was a little different on the set-up of the flags,” said Whitmer. “We had to place the flags in the afternoon the day before due to the school corporation’s first scheduled eLearning day.” Students and members of the CHS staff were cognizant of the importance of continuing the tradition that our community has come to appreciate in honor of those that lost their lives in the 9/11 event. Students from the Wrestling team, Social Justice League, International Baccalaureate, National Honor Society, as well as many other students were there to help, in addition to CHS faculty members Chris Joll, Mitch Nelson and Whitmer.
History of the Flag Setting Commemoration
Kathleen O’Keefe (2008 CHS Grad) started the first commemoration. At the time she was a charter member of the CHS Conservative Club and was assisted in part by her sister Colleen O’Keefe (2011 CHS Grad) and several other volunteers. Together they approached businesses and individuals to donate money to purchase the flags and secured permission from school administration. Colleen would continue the tradition every year thereafter, coordinating volunteers and working with the school planning the event. In 2012, their sister, Kasey O’Keefe (2015 CHS Grad) took the mantle in coordinating the event, approaching students and faculty for volunteers, gaining administration permission and serving as public relations officer. Several volunteers gave their time and energy to this memorial, including her sister Hayley O’Keefe. Hayley continued the tradition until 2016 when she also graduated from CHS.
A Story of Flags
There are 2,977 flags placed on the grass of Chesterton High School. Each flag carries the name of an individual who lost their life in the tragic attacks of September 11, 2001.
Additionally, a Tenth Anniversary commemorative flag, whose red and white strips are made up of the names of each victim of the three attacks, stands between two American flags. Together, these three flags represent the three attack locations:
- Center Flag: The World Trade Center Twin Towers in New York City
- Right Flag: The Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia
- Left Flag: The crash of United Airlines flight 93 in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.