Katherine Kersten devotes her Star Tribune column today to the 9/11 remembrance observed in Kellogg, Minnesota, population 440: “Small town shows its neighborliness.” Kathy writes:
This weekend, the town is hosting a three-day tribute to the victims and heroes of 9/11, held in conjunction with its annual Watermelon Festival.
The tribute’s theme: Never Forget.
The event features the 9/11 Rolling Memorial, a semitrailer truck painted with the names of the nearly 3,000 who died that day. There will be an eagle, a Black Hawk helicopter, a memorial service with visiting dignitaries on Sunday, and a salute to the troops. (Find a detailed schedule at www.kelloggmn.com.)
Pulling all of this together might not pose a challenge in a bigger city, says organizer Mary Murphy, manager of Kellogg’s American Legion. “But in our little town, we’ve struggled every inch of the way. Our 440 people are proud to be hosts to these events.”
For many Americans, the memory of the most deadly attack in our nation’s history appears to be fading, but small-town America is different.
John Holmgren, of Shafer, Minn., the Rolling Memorial’s owner, has crisscrossed the country talking about Sept. 11. He says that people in small towns seem most open and heartfelt in their remembrance, even though they live as far psychologically as geographically from the bright lights of Broadway. Holmgren tells of his amazement at driving into Dodge City, Kan., a town of 25,000 on the western prairie, and seeing its elaborate 9/11 memorial. Called Liberty Gardens, it has a large piece of steel from ground zero and an American flag. Its two reflecting ponds hold 110-inch replicas of the twin towers. Water sheets down their sides, representing tears for the victims and their families.
Kathy met up with the town elders earlier this week to see what makes them tick. She concludes on a high note:
What does “Never Forget” mean to the people of Kellogg? It means paying tribute to 9/11’s victims and heroes, Murphy says, but it also means being vigilant in preventing future attacks. Kellogg, like many small towns, has a proud tradition of defending America’s freedom through military service. The Legion has 100 members, its auxiliary 185 members and the Sons of the Legion, 50.
Many young people from the Kellogg-Wabasha area have served in Iraq, and the whole town stands proudly behind them. “Support the troops” means much more than yellow ribbons. For a year after Operation Iraqi Freedom’s launch, Murphy coordinated a care package program. With help and donations from area folks, she sent a weekly package — candy, sunglasses, the Wabasha Herald — to every Kellogg-area soldier serving there. The Murphys’ son, Buddy, is now a Bradley driver in the Army, bound soon for Iraq.
In the minds of these people of Kellogg, the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center and the defense of America are joined inextricably. For them, America is about more than rights; it’s about responsibilities.
Here in Kellogg’s Legion hall, there is an unembarrassed patriotism. Perhaps it’s all too sentimental for some sophisticated city dwellers. But neighborliness and love of country is in these people’s blood. They don’t hold it out and analyze it. They live it.