Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Remembering 9/11 in Hastings, Minnesota September 11, 2018

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TODAY, WHILE DRIVING THROUGH HASTINGS, I noted an American flag suspended across U.S. Highway 61 near the bridge that spans the Mississippi River connecting Minnesota and Wisconsin.

“Why is the flag there?” I asked Randy.

“September 11,” he said, and I had one of those moments when I couldn’t believe I’d forgotten the anniversary date of the terrorist attacks on our country.

To the people of Hastings, thank you for reminding me of a date, an attack, a part of history that I should always remember.

 

Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

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Reflecting on 9/11 September 11, 2016

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My then 8-year-old son drew this picture of a plane aimed for the twin towers a year after 9/11 for a school religion assignment. He was a third grader in a Christian school at the time and needed to think of a time when it was hard to trust God by drawing a photo illustrating that time. To this day, this drawing by my boy illustrates to me how deeply 9/11 impacted even the youngest among us

A year after the terrorist attacks, my then 8-year-old son drew this picture of a plane aimed for the twin towers. He was a third grader in a Christian school  and needed to think of a time when it was hard to trust God. To this day, this drawing by my boy illustrates to me how deeply 9/11 impacted even the youngest among us.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This post first published on September 11, 2012. Today I am republishing it (with updated numbers) in honor of those who died 15 years ago today in acts of terrorism against our county. Blessed be their memories.

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IF I WAS IN MY HOMETOWN today I would visit the cemetery just outside of Vesta, to the north along the gravel road and atop the lone hill which rises ever so slightly in a sea of ripening corn and soybean fields.

I’d walk the rows until I found the gravestones of the Kletschers, mostly clumped together, close still even in death.

I’d pause at the tombstones of my paternal great grandparents and grandparents, my father and then, finally, my Uncle Mike, the bachelor uncle who was like a second father to me and my five siblings. He lived the next farm over, farmed with our father and joined us for everyday meals and holidays. His inherent curiosity is a trait I possess.

Uncle Mike died on September 5, 2001, and was buried just days before 9/11.

Today thousands will visit graves of those who lost their lives on that horrific day 15 years ago when our nation was attacked by terrorists.

My uncle had never, as far as I know, been to New York or Washington D.C. or Pennsylvania, never traveled much. He stuck close to the prairie, close to the farm, close to the land he cherished with the depth of love only a farmer can possess.

I miss him and grieve his death with a depth of grief that comes only from loving someone deeply.

Today, on this the 15th anniversary of 9/11, countless family and friends and co-workers and others will grieve with a depth that comes from loving deeply. They may grieve privately or at public ceremonies marking the date nearly 3,000 innocent individuals lost their lives.

Some will travel to that field in Stonycreek Township in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, where the passengers of Flight 93 fought back against those who would terrorize this nation.

It is the one place I can most relate to in the whole horribleness of this American tragedy because my roots reach deep into the land. Flight 93 crashed in a field near Shanksville, a rural community of 250 in the Laurel Mountains of western Pennsylvania with a population 100 less than my Minnesota hometown.

None of this diminishes the significant impact made upon me by the terrorist-directed planes slamming into the twin towers or the destruction wreaked upon the Pentagon in urban settings.

But big cities—even though I’ve been to New York once in my life many decades ago while in college—are unfamiliar terrain, skyscrapers as foreign to me as a silo to a city-dweller.

A lone plane crashing into a field, plowing into the earth, that I understand.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Remembering 9/11 from a mom’s perspective September 11, 2013

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I reconstructed a tower using the same blocks my son and his friend used on September 11, 2001, to duplicate what they saw on television. These are also the same airplanes they flew into the tower.

I reconstructed a tower using the same blocks my son and his friend used on September 11, 2001, to duplicate what they saw on television. These are also the same airplanes they flew into the tower. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

THEY REPEATED THE ACTION: Build the towers. Fly the planes. Smash the towers. Build. Fly. Smash.

A dozen years ago today my then seven-year-old son, Caleb, not feeling well and home from school, played with his friend Sam.

I have never forgotten that scene unfolding on my living room floor. Two boys imitating what they saw on television. Me, shocked, unable to turn off the TV and shield them from the horrors of an attack on America.

What do you remember, from a personal perspective, of that day 12 years ago when so many innocent people lost their lives in the terrorist attacks on our country? What were you thinking? How did you feel?

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Faribault American Legion honors the fallen July 22, 2013

Folks begin to gather at the FrontLine Honors Ceremony at Faribault American Legion Post 43. This Sunday marked the largest attendance since the event began following 9/11.

Folks begin to gather at the FrontLine Honors Ceremony at Faribault American Legion Post 43. This Sunday marked the largest attendance since the event began following 9/11.

OUTSIDE FARIBAULT AMERICAN Legion Post 43, shortly before 1 p.m. Sunday, the crowd began to gather.

Many Vietnam veterans attended the ceremony.

Many Vietnam veterans attended the ceremony.

Veterans. Their wives. Relatives of veterans. Those who care about those who’ve served. Patriotic Americans.

The Color Guard awaits the start of the ceremony as does Carter Quinlan, who later will receive an American flag honoring the Quinlan family.

The Color Guard awaits the start of the ceremony as does Carter Quinlan, who later will receive an American flag honoring the Quinlan family.

On the third Sunday of every month, every Sunday since September 11, 2001, the Legion has hosted a FrontLine Honors Ceremony honoring those service members who have died in the past 30 days while serving their country.

Carter Quinlan salutes in respect during the ceremony.

Carter Quinlan salutes in respect during the ceremony.

This month the list of deceased included 14 Americans—Sonny, Benjamin, Errol, Tracy, Hilda, Justin, Corey, Javier, Justin, Ember, Robert, William, Jared, Jesse.

Someone’s son. Someone’s daughter.

Hometown men and women from places like Waynesfield, Ohio; Kennewick, Washington; and Gentry, Arkansas.

Some dead due to hostile rocket fire and other attacks, others for non-hostile reasons.

American Legion Post Commander Kirk Mansfield led the ceremony and read the names of the deceased.

American Legion Post Commander Kirk Mansfield leads the ceremony and reads the names of the deceased.

On the informational sheet distributed to those in attendance, a line typed across the bottom summarizes well the purpose of the gathering:

These 14 Americans have sacrificed their lives for you and your country. Never forget.

Young Carter hugs the American flag, which he accepted in honor of his military family.

Young Carter hugs the American flag, which he accepted in honor of his military family.

I expect many in attendance will also remember the presentation of the Legion’s American flag to 4 ½-year-old Carter Quinlan. Each month the Legion’s U.S. flag is retired and gifted to a local military family, on this Sunday the Quinlans of Faribault. Carter, who stood as solemn and respectful as any adult in attendance, accepted the folded flag on behalf of his father, Derek; grandfather, Mark; and uncle, Travis. (Click here to read a previous post on this presentation.)

A new flag was then hoisted to fly for another month outside the Legion, where, on the third Sunday of August, at 1 p.m., folks will gather again for another FrontLine Honors Ceremony.

BONUS FLAG PRESENTATION PHOTOS:

Mark Quinlan, who served with the U.S. Navy and Air Force, lowers the flag to be presented to his grandson, Carter.

Mark Quinlan, who served with the U.S. Navy and Air Force, lowers the flag to be presented to his grandson, Carter.

The respectful process begins of properly folding the U.S. flag.

The respectful process begins of properly folding the U.S. flag.

The flag folding continues...

The flag folding continues…

Carter accepts the flag for his military family.

Carter accepts the flag for his military family.

Another shot of the crowd near the end of the service.

Another shot of the crowd near the end of the service.

FYI: Watch for a forthcoming post about the dedication of a veterans’ memorial on private property along Roberds Lake, rural Faribault.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Reflecting on 9/11, eleven years later September 11, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 6:52 AM
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My then 8-year-old son drew this picture of a plane aimed for the twin towers a year after 9/11 for a school religion assignment. He was a third grader in a Christian school at the time and needed to think of a time when it was hard to trust God by drawing a photo illustrating that time. To this day, this drawing by my boy illustrates to me how deeply 9/11 impacted even the youngest among us.

IF I WAS IN MY HOMETOWN today I would visit the cemetery just outside of Vesta, to the north along the gravel road and atop the lone hill which rises ever so slightly in a sea of ripening corn and soybean fields.

I’d walk the rows until I found the gravestones of the Kletschers, mostly clumped together, close still even in death.

I’d pause at the tombstones of my paternal great grandparents and grandparents, my father and then, finally, my Uncle Mike, the bachelor uncle who was like a second father to me and my five siblings. He lived the next farm over, farmed with our father and joined us for everyday meals and holidays. His inherent curiosity is a trait I possess.

Uncle Mike died on September 5, 2011, and was buried just days before 9/11.

Today thousands will visit graves of those who lost their lives on that horrific day 11 years ago when our nation was attacked by terrorists.

My uncle had never, as far as I know, been to New York or Washington D.C. or Pennsylvania, never traveled much. He stuck close to the prairie, close to the farm, close to the land he cherished with the depth of love only a farmer can possess.

I miss him and grieve his death with a depth of grief that comes only from loving someone deeply.

Today, on this the 11th anniversary of 9/11, countless family and friends and co-workers and others will grieve with a depth that comes from loving deeply. They may grieve privately or at public ceremonies marking the date nearly 3,000 innocent individuals lost their lives.

Some will travel to that field in Stonycreek Township in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, where the passengers of Flight 93 fought back against those who would terrorize this nation.

It is the one place I can most relate to in the whole horribleness of this American tragedy because my roots reach deep into the land. Flight 93 crashed in a field near Shanksville, a rural community of 250 in the Laurel Mountains of western Pennsylvania with a population 100 less than my Minnesota hometown.

None of this diminishes the significant impact made upon me by the terrorist-directed planes slamming into the twin towers or the destruction wreaked upon the Pentagon in urban settings.

But big cities—even though I’ve been to New York once in my life many decades ago while in college—are unfamiliar terrain, skyscrapers as foreign to me as a silo to a city-dweller.

A lone plane crashing into a field, plowing into the earth, that I understand.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Remembering 9/11 in Faribault, Minnesota September 11, 2011

WE CAME. We listened. We prayed. We remembered.

This afternoon my husband and I were among perhaps 100 individuals who gathered outside the county courthouse at the Rice County Veterans Memorial in Faribault to remember September 11, 2001.

A view of the crowd in front of the Rice County Courthouse and veterans memorial.

WW II veteran George DeLay, among those in attendance, waits on the courthouse steps for the program to begin.

As traffic whizzed by on busy Fourth Street, aging veterans stood or sat, their heads bowed in quiet contemplation.

Representatives of local law enforcement and emergency personnel stood attentively.

Six-year-old Dakota, son of Faribault American Legion Post 43 Commander and Desert Storm veteran Kirk Mansfield, perched on his mother Paula’s lap on the courthouse steps clutching an American flag. Too young to have lived through this day, he is learning about 9/11 from his parents, from ceremonies like those held today.

We are all still learning, experiencing and understanding how that attack on our nation 10 years ago has affected us, changed our thinking, our perspectives on life.

“Freedom is our greatest asset and our greatest export,” former Sheriff Richard Cook, who has been active in expanding the veterans’ memorial, said. “Freedom will live and flourish.”

Veteran and chaplain Roger Schuenke led the crowd in prayer: “May the faith of our fathers guide, protect and sustain our people.”

But it was the names read by Kirk Mansfield and American Legion Auxiliary representative Louise Flom that most impacted me, that caused me to pause, to settle onto the lawn of the courthouse with my camera in my lap and to listen, just listen, instead of photographing the scene.

For nearly 10 minutes the pair read the names of 94 Minnesotans who have been killed in action since 9/11:

Chester W. Hosford of Hastings, Corey J. Goodnature of Clarks Grove, Brent W. Koch of Morton, Randy W. Pickering of Bovey, Edward J. Herrgott of Shakopee, Andrew J. Kemple of Cambridge…

Familiar names, like Jesse M. Lhotka of Alexandria (originally from Appleton), David F. Day of  Saint Louis Park (originally from Morris) and Jason G. Timmerman of Cottonwood/Tracy—all National Guard members killed on February 21, 2005, in Iraq, and whose families I interviewed several years ago for a feature published in Minnesota Moments magazine.

I remembered how speaking with Lhotka’s widow had been one of the most emotionally-challenging interviews I’d ever done in my journalism career.

This I thought as Commander Mansfield and Flom read for nearly 10 minutes. Ninety-four men whose families grieve.

This is how I remembered 9/11 today, by honoring those who have given their lives for freedom.

Veterans' names are engraved in pavers edging the Rice County Veterans Memorial, the site of today's ceremony.

Some of the 20-plus veterans who stood in a line flanking the memorial.

Jim Kiekeknapp, who served in Vietnam, played taps.

Dakota with him mom, Paula, watched from the courthouse steps.

WW II veterans Bill Korff and past commander of the local Legion came in his wheelchair.

A veteran's salute.

AND THEN ON THE WAY HOME from the courthouse, I stopped at the Faribault Fire Department to photograph the memorial there honoring the New York City firefighters who died in the Twin towers.

A memorial at the Faribault Fire Department, where a short service was also held this morning.

The Faribault firefighters pay special tribute to the fallen New York firefighters on their memorial sign.

TO BACKTRACK EVEN FURTHER in my day, when my husband and I were at a local nursing home leading a morning church service, I insisted that the eight of us gathered there sing “America, the Beautiful.”

I found verse 3 especially fitting for this day when we as Americans pause in our lives to remember September 11, 2001:

“O beautiful for heroes proved

In liberating strife,

Who more than self their country loved,

And mercy more than life!

America! America! May God thy gold refine

Till all success be nobleness

And every gain divine!”

Six-year-old Dakota and others in attendance perused the veterans' pavers after the ceremony.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Remembering: Boys, blocks & 9/11 September 9, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 6:09 AM
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THROUGHOUT THIS WEEK I’ve contemplated the post I would write about 9/11. And not once have I deviated from my initial idea.

So yesterday I headed to the basement and started digging through totes in search of building blocks and toy airplanes. I found the blocks, but not the planes. Those I discovered later while rummaging through my son’s upstairs bedroom closet.

Ten years ago, on September 11, 2001, my boy was only seven years old. He was home from school that day, not feeling well, when my husband phoned with news of the first plane crashing into the first tower.

I switched on the television. Typically I don’t have the TV on during the day and would not have known about the terrorist attacks until much later.

From that moment on, I could not take my eyes off the screen even though I worried about exposing my son and a younger boy in my care that day to the news coverage. How would they react? And did they truly understand the gravity of what was unfolding in our country?

I attempted to explain the situation, to tell the boys this was “real” and not some television show. They continued playing with whatever toys they had out at the time—I can’t recall.

But clearly they were listening and watching, for soon the two pulled a box of wooden building blocks from the toy box. Then they pulled out the toy airplanes.

I watched as my 7-year-old and his friend constructed teetering towers, then smashed those miniature planes into the towers. Blocks tumbled across the living room carpet.

I reconstructed a tower using the same blocks my son and his friend used on September 11, 2001, to duplicate what they saw on television. These are also the same airplanes they flew into the towers.

They repeated the action: Build the towers. Fly the planes. Smash the towers. Build. Fly. Smash.

I could have cried over the loss of innocence—mine and theirs.

WHAT ARE YOUR PERSONAL memories of September 11, 2001? Please submit a comment and share your story.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling