In April 2011, I took my two daughters to Art Hill. It's one of my favorite places in St. Louis. A few months later Art Hill would be filled with 3,000 flags to mark the tenth anniversary of 9/11 and to honor the victims of the attacks. Flags of Valor, it’s called.
The first time I experienced any anger over 9/11 was when I had to explain the significance of those flags to my oldest daughter. She was five at the time. Art Hill was our special place, and now the memory of this unspeakable horror stood on its grassy doorstep. I realized then my daughters will never live in a world where that event did not happen. They will only know the ripples that came after.
This year, I took my daughters to Art Hill to see this year’s installation. We are five years older. Seven thousand flags commemorate all the service members who have given their lives over the last 15 years. We found the flag for my friend, Scott Love. His own daughter has now spent more years on this earth without a father than with one. I named my youngest daughter after him. As we were leaving, my oldest daughter said, "Mom, if you stand at the end and look straight down the row, when the wind blows, all the flags raise at the same time and you can't tell them apart. It all looks like one flag."
At the top of this hill sits a statue titled "The Apotheosis of St. Louis." It depicts the city's namesake, King Louis IX of France on his war horse, sword held aloft, blade down, the hilt forming a cross as if he's blessing the field that lies before him. Apotheosis: the highest or best example of something, elevation to a divine status.
I came back from Iraq in 2005, but I didn't get home until these girls were born. I don't know if they'll ever really know how many times being their mom has saved my life.