Tuesday, September 10, 2002

City wants vandalized flags flying for 9-11

By Gina Holt
Enquirer contributor

        MELBOURNE - While people all over America are wondering if terrorists will attack the United States on the anniversary of 9-11, residents here wonder if their tiny town will be vandalized again.

George Spangler, public works employee for Melbourne, has repaired six of the flags torn from utility poles.
(Patrick Reddy photo)
| ZOOM |
        Twenty-four American flags flew high on both sides of Ky. 8 in Melbourne over Labor Day weekend, just as they do on every patriotic holiday, but they didn't make it to Labor Day.

        City officials in this town of 600 have scrambled to raise the money to get the flags back up for Sept. 11. An outpouring of support has enabled six flags to be replaced so far, with more support on the way.

        Still, some damaged flags may have to be put back up.

        “They tore down about half of them,” said George Koopman, Melbourne mayor, adding that he doesn't know who did it.

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        “I wish we did know. Crazy people must have torn them down, sick people. I don't think we have the fear of terrorists, we have the fear of idiots like this.”

        The flags were strewn over the streets and many of the poles and brackets were broken as well. City maintenance uses an 8-foot ladder to hang the flags.

        “Somebody had to go through a lot of trouble to do this,” Mr. Koopman said.

        He said he assumes young vandals are responsible.

        “I like to think they're not from Melbourne,” he said. “I think we just got some rowdies. If these were kids, they were out until 3 or 4 in the morning.

        “If we find out who did it, we will prosecute them.”

        The mayor isn't letting this stop him from having the flag display the city wants for Sept. 11 though.

        “We decided we'd try it again and see what happens,” said Mr. Koopman. “That's what 9-11 is all about. You can't let these things defeat you. You can't roll over for these people.”

        Each flag, with bracket and pole, cost about $40 to replace. Officials in Melbourne, with a budget to match its tiny population, weren't sure how they would finance it.

        “We just replaced the flags a couple months ago,” Mr. Koopman said, adding that they are replaced every couple of years due to weathering.

        Kroger in Bellevue has donated five flags. The Alexandria VFW Post 3205 donated one. An Ohio woman won a flag at her company picnic and donated it.

        It is expected that the John R. Little VFW Post 3186 Ladies Auxiliary will donate a few flags tonight. Some of the torn-down flags were salvaged.

        “I've been repairing them,” said George Spangler, public works employee and World War II U.S. Navy veteran. “They cleaned up pretty good.

        “It's time-consuming,” he said adding that he has straightened a lot of the metal poles.

        “There are a number of people sending cash donations,” Mr. Koopman said.

        “It's been a real outpouring of patriotism. People are responding from all over, not just Melbourne.”


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