yearly memorial the Duneland community has come to love and appreciate, has
been altered this year.
Each year since
2007, Chesterton High School students and staff members have continued the
tradition the O'Keefe family began of placing 2,977 small U.S. flags in the
grassy area in front of the CHS Stadium along 11th St. in Chesterton. Each
flag bearing the name of a soul lost on Sept. 11, 2001m in the tragic
attacks on America.
But, this year is
different due to COVID-19.
"The placing of
2,977 small flags takes many hands and bodies close together to accomplish
the display," said Mary Beth Whitmer, CHS support staff member and yearly
9/11 organizer. “Due to the need to social distance CHS students and other
helpers, the display this year will be simple and represented by a large
flag in lieu of placing all the small flags.”
disappointing, but it is what needs to be done to ensure everyone stays
safe,” said Whitmer. “Perhaps next year we can make this work and continue
this community tradition.”
History of the
(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.