The year after the 9/11 attacks, Cleveland City Kiwanis Club, the city of Cleveland, Bradley County and Cleveland Utilities decided to make a display of the area’s patriotism, support for the armed forces and strength of the community.
In 2002, the Flag City project was discussed and in 2003, more than 400 United States flags were placed from one end of Cleveland to the other.
According to Kiwanis member Kaye Smith, a special celebration was held at Bradley Central High School on June 14, 2003, for the Flag City project and numerous Kiwanians and members of city and county government attended to show their support for the patriotic project.
Bart Borden, electrical operations manager at Cleveland Utilities, explained the initial idea was to find a way to honor the troops in the Middle East and the heroes and fallen from 9/11. When they heard of the Kiwanis interest in a similar program the groups happily joined forces.
“The project has continued each year with flags installed from May until November of each year,” Smith explained.
However, this year was different.
“The Flag City USA project is something Kiwanis has been honored to lead over the past decade. Unfortunately, in 2011, this initiative was threatened by the impact of the devastating storms on April 27,” stated Kiwanis President Matthew Ryerson.
Much of the time Cleveland Utilities workers would have devoted to handing flags all around the city was instead focused on rebuilding the community and restoring power to hundreds after tornadoes steam-rolled through the area.
Despite the long hours and hard work of the crews at Cleveland Utilities, they have vowed not to let Flag City fall by the wayside because of tragedies past or present.
“Through the weeks of hard work, we have grown to see our friends at Cleveland Utilities as more than just partners, we see them as community heroes. Now, despite the overwhelming workload, Cleveland Utilities has committed to ensure the U.S. flags will still fly in Cleveland,” Ryerson said.
In honor of the 10-year anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, Kiwanis, local government and Cleveland Utilities have partnered together to honor Flag City USA by placing a United States Flag on every utility pole on Paul Huff Parkway from Interstate 75 to North Lee Highway.
“This year, when we honor the heroes of 9/11 with our flags waving proudly, we can also give a nod to our local heroes who served so selflessly on the night of April 27 and the days and weeks after those tragic storms. Kiwanis Club of Cleveland salutes our heroes at Cleveland Utilities and throughout the entire community,” Ryerson said.
Late last week Kiwanis members took their stock of flags and flag poles to the UT Extension office for members of the local 4-H honor club to help the organization sort and replace flags and poles that had been badly damaged by time and weather.
Those flags that had been badly damaged were going to be delivered to local Boy Scout troops so they can be properly retired.
In cooperation with the event, the city of Cleveland helped Kiwanis purchase more than 300 brand-new flags to be displayed this year and in the future.
According to Ryerson, the flags were delivered to Cleveland Utilities and should be going up as soon as possible.
“Cleveland Utilities and the Kiwanis Club are working to install flags this year along Paul Huff Parkway in recognition of the 10th Anniversary of 9/11. While the coverage area has been reduced, our commitment to say ‘Thank You’ and ‘We Remember’ has not,” stated Borden.
Despite life-changing tragedies, the symbol of the United States will still line the streets of Cleveland and show the strength, resilience and support of the community.
“This is a really great thing, and I am proud to call myself a citizen of our community,” Ryerson said.