They say in hard times people show their true colors. Red, white and blue were the colors of choice for people who showed up to Santa Barbara City College on Sunday.
Approximately 6,000 people gathered in SBCC’s La Playa stadium to form a human American flag to honor the victims of the attack on the World Trade Center twin towers on Sept. 11. Participants were asked to bring a red, blue or white T-shirt and to sit in designated sections to form the stars and stripes of the flag.
Clear Channel Santa Barbara, a company that owns seven local radio stations, including KTYD and KISSFM, sponsored the event. Matt McAllister, a disk jockey on the KTYD morning show, came up with the idea to form a human flag because he believed many community members felt they needed to help but did not know what to do.
“I had the feeling that on that Tuesday everyone wanted to do something and the blood banks were full and you couldn’t get to New York if you wanted to,” he said.
McAllister said he believed the best way to help was to thank New York firefighters and police officers with a show of support for their rescue efforts.
“You can’t ask for a more powerful thank you than for people to come out here and give up their Sunday,” he said.
The picture will be framed and sent to firefighters and police officers in New York. The Santa Barbara News-Press will also distribute 54,000 photos in the paper on Sept. 30.
The crowd gave a standing ovation to members of the Fire Academy as they took seats in the blue section. The Santa Barbara County Fire Dept. has been selling T-shirts and sending the proceeds to the families of the firefighters who died during rescue efforts in New York. Vince Agapito, a Santa Barbara County fireman, said the SBCFD has also held fundraisers to help with the rescue efforts.
“I think America is in a rough time right now, the roughest time we’ve been in,” he said. “We all need to be very close and very supportive.”
“It’s been kind of passŽ to be proud to be an American and I think now it is fine and that’s great,” he said.
Over 200 UCSB students from Tropicana, Fontainbleu and Francisco Torres participated in the event. Resident Assistant Cassie Keller, a junior Spanish major, organized the trip because she wanted to allow her residents to show support for the firefighters in New York.
“We’re giving up our Sunday because a lot of people gave up their lives,” she said.
Gene Wilkinson, a retired Naval officer who served in World War II, came to La Playa Stadium to show his support for the U.S. effort. Wilkinson said the patriotism shown by the crowd was a good sign and would help the U.S. get through what he believes will be a difficult period.
“It’s going to be rough,” he said,” but we can do it.”