INDIANAPOLIS — You may or may not know James Clark’s name, but chances are you’ve definitely seen his flag wave above I-465 on Indy’s northwest side.
Every year on September 11th from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., Clark sets up his post along the overpass on 56th Street.
“I’ve done the math over the years, and the travel demographics is about a million cars coming in and out of the city from the Chicago 65 corridor,” he said, “and that’s a million eyes, there’s a million people that are going to lay eyes on that flag that particular day.”
“If it means something to one person, who goes home and holds their wife a little tighter, or embraces their children because they realize what we went through to engage in such a beautiful experiment as we do in American culture, then that moves me,” he added.
While cars pass by, it’s about a half mile walk for the many others, who stop to watch up close.
For the last 20 years, Clark says he’s hugged and cried with complete strangers. That’s as many of them have opened their hearts, sharing their own personal stories and connections to the tragedy we know as 9/11.
“An elderly woman, named Elizabeth, made her way up to me, and by the time she got to me, she was crying uncontrollably, and she hugged me and held me for a few minutes,” Clark recalled.
“On 9/11, she never had children, but she was close to her niece and nephew,” he added. “Her nephew perished in Tower 1. When the towers went down, he didn’t get out. He was on the 105th floor, and 28 minutes later, her niece died in Tower 2.”
Also a business owner, Clark operates Sparkle Buggy Detail, which he closes down every year in remembrance of the holiday. Through his flag waving efforts, he also encourages people to donate to the Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio Chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Health issues kept Clark from waving the flag last year, but now at 60 years old, he’s back for the 20th anniversary. However, his hope is someone younger will decide to take it on for the years to come.
“After 20 years, everything hurts, and I would welcome the opportunity for a young king or queen with promise to come and take over this for the next 20 years,” said Clark, “and if it’s just one individual, I want them to experience the love, and the pain, and the stories of torture and greatness that emerged from us engaging together.”
“Be prepared to spend about an hour on the phone with me defining what this has meant to my life,” he added, “and if this is something that moves you every year, if you just see the imagery of this, it’s not so much who’s holding the flag, because you can’t see me from a mile away, but you can certainly see this flag from a mile away.”
If you’re interested in taking on waving the flag on 9/11, you can contact Clark through Sparkle Buggy Detail at 317-403-1614.
Several events are also planned to commemorate 9/11 in Indiana.
The Indianapolis Airport Authority will host its annual Patriots Day Ceremony on Saturday. The public event starts at 8:46 a.m., the same time when the first tower of the World Trade Center was hit in 2001.
IAA’s fire and police, along with TSA, will meet at the Civic Plaza at the Indianapolis International Airport. That’s where they’ll present an honor guard display, candle and wreath-laying ceremony and music from Wayne Township Schools. Masks are required.
Travelers, flying to and from Indianapolis during that time, will be briefly interrupted for the short and solemn ceremony.
A piece of World Trade Center steel, recovered from Ground Zero, will also be public in the airport’s Civic Plaza throughout the day.
Director of Public Affairs Bill Stinson says the ceremony not only recognizes and honors the nearly 3,000 lives lost, as well as families and survivors, but it’s also tribute to the Hoosiers, who stepped up to help through Indiana Task Force One.
“This was an effort spurred by them, I think kind of two fold, to help them understand and memorialize what they had gone through responding to the attacks in New York City,” Stinson said, “but then also allowing those who are here in Indianapolis, further away than they were, without a connection, without maybe a firsthand connection, to be able to understand it and pay respect to it.”
Also on Saturday, Governor Eric Holcomb is among the speakers for Indiana’s 9/11 Memorial Re-Dedication and 20th Anniversary Ceremony.
It starts at 2 p.m. at 421 W. Ohio Street.
Other guest speakers include Brig. Gen. J. Stewart Goodwin, USAF (Ret), executive director, Indiana War Memorials Commission and Terri Maude, widow of Lieutenant General Tim Maude.