With the news that Montana is taking in several Afghanistan refugees and families fleeing the Taliban, a well of emotion is springing up in residents who remember the impact of 9/11 and are visiting a Bigfork display that pays tribute to the lives lost on that terrible day.
In a meeting with local veterans just a few weeks ago, Senator Steve Daines encouraged Montanas to show hospitality and kindness towards all refugees coming to settle in the state:
These are refugees that love America. They risk their lives for our country. And it’s our duty to ensure that they are allowed a way to get away from the Taliban. Had they stayed there, they would have been killed. This gentleman I spoke with this morning here in Missoula said ‘I would have been killed. My wife would have been killed.’ And their beautiful little one-year-old who was there in the meeting would have been killed as well. They are grateful to be in America. They love our country and as Montanans, we need to welcome them and thank them for what they did to help us in Afghanistan.”
This plea for kindness and tolerance was echoed by the IRCM, a Missoula-based coalition dedicated to helping settle any and all refugees making the state their home.
The vast majority of Montanans are doing that very thing, but it doesn’t make the emotions run any less strong. In early August, Wranger Springs Ranch put up “Field of Honor”, a tribute to the victims who died during the terrorist attack on the twin towers. One local resident said on social media:
“I don’t blame the refugees, they’re escaping a bad situation and I would do the same thing if I were them. But hearing all the stories coming out of there makes it all that more important for us to remember why we were there in the first place.”
Located at Wrangler Springs Ranch, 6850 Montana Hwy. 35, Bigfork, MT 59911, a display has been set up featuring 300 full-sized American Flags, one for every 10 people who perished that day. The sight is a stark, visceral sight for those who remember exactly where they were when it happened, and as a teaching moment for any born after it or too young to remember.
9/11 Honor and Serve Foundation President Bill Thomas told KPAX:
“Regardless of what aisle of the political spectrum it didn’t matter, we were one nation and we shared this horrific time together and so having the field here is just opportunity for us to remind folks about that, it was 20 years ago, and let them know that we’re still a great nation and we still have a lot of great people but maybe let them think back to those times and how we just came together with one common idea of healing a nation from a tragic day.”
One Montana Daily Gazette Reporter remembers watching the event on TV live as it happened.
“My husband woke me at about 8 AM. He shouted, “Hurry, a Twin Tower has been hit by an airplane!” I flew out of bed half in a daze and scurried downstairs just in time to witness the second tower being struck by another plane and then watched as huge billows of smoke poured forth. It all seemed so surreal, as though I was watching a movie, except it was real life and happening right before my eyes. We continued to watch the news off and on throughout the next two days as our country was in terrible mourning. My husband bought a newspaper on September 11th, 2001, and we still have it to this day.”
The Field of Honor tribute to the fallen runs until September 12th.