Sandra Conaty Brace was an active woman. She mastered the 55-word short story, had several published, cared for her 25 cats, and worked as an administrative assistant for Risk Insurance Solutions. On September 10, 2001, Brace took the day off to do chores and watch Judge Judy. When her husband David came home that evening, he suggested she take the following day off, too. Sandra replied, "No, I think I'll go to work."
The following morning, Brace went to her office at the World Trade Center and, along with almost 3,000 others, lost her life in the terrorist attacks of September 11. As the three-year anniversary of that tragedy approaches, Valley residents and organizations gear up for memorials and fund raisers honoring the lives lost.
The Healing Field project will cover all of Tempe Beach Park with 4,000 American flags -- a full-size flag for every victim of 9/11, as well as flags for the soldiers killed in the War on Terror. Ceremonies begin at 7 p.m. Friday, September 10, with a candlelight vigil to honor those who died. On Saturday, September 11, Tempe Mayor Hugh Hallman speaks, and the names of 9/11 and war victims will be read. An interfaith church service and Black Hawk helicopter flyover follow at 9 a.m. Sunday, September 12. Visit www.healingfield.org for more information.
Saturday's Third Annual Firefighters Benefit Bash honors fallen firefighters and raises funds for United Mesa Firefighter Charities. Gene Faith, a former East Valley paramedic and firefighter, organized the event in 2002. "It made sense to me that we should focus on celebrating the spirits of those brave men and women who had lost their lives serving others," Faith says. "To sit in the dark and feel sad seems like an inappropriate way to honor those who valued life above all else." The benefit, to be held at the Mesa Amphitheatre, 251 North Center, includes performances by Stream, Haggis (a.k.a. Jetta Rule), 68 Guns, Troy Luccketta of Tesla, and former Lynch Mob front man Robert Mason. See www.ticketmaster.com for tickets, $21, to the 6 p.m. show.
The Red, White and Blues Festival is a great way to say "thank you" to our troops, as all donations benefit Homes for Our Troops, a nonprofit that helps construct or modify homes for disabled vets returning from Afghanistan and Iraq. Usual Suspects drummer Mark Ewert organized the event, set for noon at El Pedregal, 34505 North Scottsdale Road in Scottsdale. "I felt that we should do something to give back to the people that had paid such a heavy price to defend our freedom," he says. "It doesn't matter where you fall on the issue of the war itself -- the support of the troops is something we all feel is needed." Ten Years Gone, Nowhere Fast, Downward Dog, The Reason, Big Daddy D and the Dynamites, and Poppy and the Usual Suspects perform. Admission is free, with donations accepted at the door. Call 480-488-1072 for details.
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September 11 is not only a day to show support for our troops; it's also a day to celebrate peace. From 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., A Peaceful Creative Community Celebration will do just that. Events include a Peace Pole dedication by the U.N. World Peace Prayer Society, the release of rehabilitated falcons by Liberty Wildlife, live music, and the world premi're of Critical Mass, a "creative peace documentary." Former Phoenix mayor Thelda Williams and authors Mary Ann Morgan and Ray Madaghiele are among the guest speakers. Admission is free at StarShine Academy Charter School, 2801 North 31st Street. Call 602-957-9557 for more information.