bobandgeriSeptember 11, 2006 at 11:09 amPost count: 53
Story with a photo of the flag being raised on Mt Jefferson is in this mornings edition of the Nashua Telegraph.
MOUNT JEFFERSON, WHITE MOUNTAINS – The flag didn’t unfurl; it practically exploded.
“Hold it! Hold it!” shouted Bob Hayes of Merrimack, grappling with the 15-foot mast as his wife, Geri, and several friends fastened support ropes around desk-sized boulders and struggled to pull them tight.
Fighting the winds for which the White Mountains are famous, including gusts so strong that adults could hardly stand, they leveraged the high American flag upright on the rocky summit of Mount Jefferson, third-tallest peak in the state at 5,774 feet.
And with that, they joined more than 100 people participating Saturday in a most unusual group memorial to the
victims of the Sept. 11 attacks: Carrying an American flag to the top of each of New Hampshire’s “4,000-footers,” the state’s 48 tallest mountains, and flying them all at the same time.
“Everybody does what they can. . . . If you’re a hiker, this is the highest honor you can give,” said Nilsa Carrasquillo of Boston, one of a dozen people who signed up online to join the Mount Jefferson group.
The group included Peter Backiel of Clinton, Mass., who carried up a Marine Corps flag to honor his son, Kurtis, an infantryman stationed in Fallujah, Iraq.
“He’s my hiking partner. . . . Since he can’t be here, I told him I’d send him pictures of it,” said Backiel.
No one in the group, which ranged in age from 16 to 67, lost a friend or family member to the terror attacks. In a way, that made their participation all the more significant, an indication of how Sept. 11 marked us all.
Besides, noted Bob Andrews of Belchertown, Mass., who had to get up at 1:30 a.m. to make it to the trailhead in time for the hike, many people know someone who was affected. “I don’t think that anybody in New England is more than a couple of degrees of separation away from it,” he said.
Still, Saturday’s event wasn’t exactly somber. The exhilaration that comes from ascending the Northeast’s toughest peaks makes it hard to be too serious, as reflected by the fact that several group members had hiking nicknames such as Poison Ivy, Kaboose and Shaggy, from the Scooby-Doo cartoon character.
There was plenty of laughter, sharing of trail food and joking about sore feet. Yet as the memorial began at noon Saturday, the sight of a 6- by 10-foot Stars and Stripes snapping in a place where the only man-made objects are rock piles assembled to guide hikers when fog descends had its effect.
“You still get a lump in your throat,” said Bob Hayes, even though this was the third time he and Geri have been involved with a “Flags on the 48” ceremony, honoring those who died at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and in the wreckage of United Flight 93 in Pennsylvania.
Flags on the 48 grew out of a spontaneous ceremony held four days after Sept. 11, 2001, when six hikers connected through an Internet discussion area sponsored by the Appalachian Mountain Club. They lugged a 96-square-foot American flag – plus PVC tubing, rope and duct tape to make their own flagpole – atop 4,459-foot Mount Liberty, and raised Old Glory.
Under the “leave no trace” outdoors ethic they took the flag back down with them, but found the event so moving that they decided to make it an annual event.
Word spread among New England’s well-connected hiking community, via Internet sites and group events. In 2002, flags were flown during a two-hour window atop several peaks by hikers, including the Hayes, who helped raise one on Mount Carigan.
In 2003, even more peaks were topped, and by 2004, so many people were involved that flags flew atop all of the state’s 48 4,000-footers.
Despite its popularity among experienced hikers like the Hayeses – who have been atop the 100 highest peaks in New England as well as all the 4,000-footers in winter – Saturday’s ceremony came as a surprise to others.
“I think this is a great idea,” said Jason Stansfield of Manchester, Conn., one of many who hiked past the base of Mount Jefferson on Saturday.
“There’s always people who’ve never heard of it,” said Geri Hayes. “But they’re always glad to see the flag.”
Saturday, when typical White Mountain weather descended – it was clear and warm at the Jefferson Notch Road trailhead, but socked-in and cold at the summit – it even had a practical benefit.
“When I heard the flapping, we knew we were close to the top,” joked Tom Horton of Ashburnham, Mass., who was hiking Mount Jefferson solo Saturday.
The weather was the only disappointment of Saturday’s event: Unlike previous years, when the Hayeses have been able to see flags on nearby summits, no other 4,000-footers could be seen through the clouds.
But even if all the flags in the state were visible only to those standing around them, that would have been enough.TrekManParticipantSeptember 11, 2006 at 11:22 amPost count: 149
Great write-up Bob & Geri. I hope to spread some words locally myself in Suffield CT even if after the fact.
-TrekManChrisKeymasterSeptember 11, 2006 at 2:28 pmPost count: 878
Bob, thanks for being available to the Telegraph, this was a perfect way to show what the event was about!bobandgeriSeptember 11, 2006 at 3:05 pmPost count: 53
You can’t tell by the online version of the article, but the photo on the front page of the print versions is an entire 1/2 page! The story starts on page 1 and continues on page 7 with another photo of Geri, Amy, and Nilsa hiking.
For print version the story is titled:
In red letters centered “9/11: FIVE YEARS LATER”
then in larger black bold letters:
“Lowest Lows, highest peaks” strecthcing across the page above the photo.
Very nice coverage.
It was a great experience exposing the reporter, his daughter and the photographer to the event. I believe they enjoyed themselves.MARISeptember 12, 2006 at 1:23 amPost count: 15
Wow, Oh my God!!
The front page of the telegraph is incredible! What a picture up top Jefferson! The online pic does no justice: this is a 3/4 page photo on the front page. I will run out and buy 20 copies if anyone wants- its great!Excellent coverage!MichaelJParticipantSeptember 12, 2006 at 1:02 pmPost count: 839
Please do! And I would be happy to scan one.
I noticed the Telegraph offers their front pages in .PDF format already, for a small fee. I will gladly pay that if this cover’s available that way, too.
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