By Julie Shapiro
FINANCIAL DISTRICT — Three thousand flags bearing the names of 9/11 victims will go on display in Battery Park this September.
Called the NYC Memorial Field, the five-day project aims to give all New Yorkers who lived through the events of 9/11 a public place to gather and pay respects to those who were killed that day, during the 10th anniversary.
"There's been nothing for the New Yorkers who lived through 9/11," said John Michelotti, who is leading the effort. "Every year, they have nothing for survivors."
Michelotti, 59, a Greenwich resident, sees the memorial field as an alternative to the new 9/11 memorial, which will open just to victims' family members on September 11 and then will require advance, timed tickets afterwards. The Battery Park field will be open to the public, with no reservation required.
Each of the 3,000 banners that will be displayed, known as Flags of Honor, measures 3 feet by 5 feet and features red and blue rows of the names of all those who were killed on 9/11.
Michelotti, who designed the Flag of Honor in the wake of the attacks, has mounted similar memorial fields before, including one with 3,000 flags in Inwood Hill Park in 2006 and smaller ones with several hundred flags in Battery Park the past couple years.
But this year will be the first time Michelotti has displayed so many of the flags so close to Ground Zero.
"It's almost spiritual, when you see 3,000 flags," Michelotti said.
"It gives you a sense of exactly what 3,000 looks like. You see the flags blowing in the breeze, the shadows they cast on the grass. It's very emotional, for sure."
He plans to begin installing the flags Sept. 7 around the Fritz Koenig sphere sculpture and then spread out to the surrounding lawns. The memorial field will be open from Sept. 8 to Sept. 12, and the flags will come down on Sept. 13.
Michelotti got the idea for the Flag of Honor shortly after 9/11, while he was recuperating from unexpected heart surgery.
As news anchors compared 9/11 to Pearl Harbor, Michelotti realized he couldn't name a single victim who was killed in the 1941 attack — and he didn't want the same fate to befall the victims of 9/11.
"These people should be remembered as individuals, by name," Michelotti said.
Michelotti designed the Flag of Honor as soon as he was able to get a list of the victims' names. He gave up his engineering firm, partly as a result of his heart surgery, and devoted himself full-time to volunteer work and spreading the word on his flag project.
In the past 10 years, Michelotti has distributed more than 300,000 of the commemorative banners, some sold and some donated. The proceeds of the sales go to Michelotti's non-profit Flag of Honor Fund, which aims to donate a Flag of Honor canvas to the family of every 9/11 victim, Michelotti said.
Michelotti is now looking forward to seeing his latest flag installation rise in Battery Park.
"When you walk into the grid, you almost get lost," Michelotti said. "You almost can't see the end of it."