2,997 Flags Over Traer

Local military mom creates memorial in her yard for those lost on 9/11

Traer resident Sara Knoop and her son Travis Waller’s dog Lucy pictured in Knoop’s Cherry Street yard on Friday, September 10 amid almost 3,000 American flags. Knoop with the help of family and friends placed the flags in memory of those lost in the 9/11 terrorist attacks 20 years ago. Waller is currently serving in the military and is stationed in Alaska. Photo by Ruby F. Bodeker.

“Where were you on 9/11?” — and just like that, an important conversation begins.

Military mother Sara Knoop spent several days last week in the lead-up to the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks posing that very question to visitors to her Cherry Street yard in Traer.

A yard that featured 2,997 tiny symbols of hope in the form of the American Flag.

For the 2,997 people who died on September 11, 2001.

Knoop’s son Travis Waller — a 2019 North Tama graduate — is currently serving in the military, stationed in Alaska. Knoop made the decision to cover her front and side lawns in flags to remind her community — particularly those who had not even been born when the terror attacks took place — that the deaths still matter.

Flags gently ripple in the evening breeze on Friday, September 10 in the Cherry Street yard of Traer resident Sara Knoop in memory of those lost on 9/11. Photo by Soren M. Peterson.

“It is just a number,” Knoop said Friday as she stood in her yard — her son Travis’s dog Lucy at her side, flags gently waving all around her in the evening breeze. “But to see it is a little different.”

Which is why over the course of three hours on Wednesday, September 8, Knoop with the help of family and friends placed the flags in the ground around her home.

News of Knoop’s yard quickly spread throughout town and on Friday teachers from North Tama Elementary School brought their classes to the memorial to better understand the number.

“That was very touching to me,” Knoop said.

Knoop’s fourth-grade son Evan Knoop visited with his class.

Students from North Tama Elementary School’s fourth grade class paid a visit to Sara Knoop’s Cherry Street yard last week to view the 2,997 American flags Knoop displayed in memory of the nearly 3,000 lives lost in the 9/11 terrorist attacks 20 years ago. Contributed photo.

“I saw one of [my classmate’s] faces — they were like, oh my God, that’s a lot of flags,” Evan said.

Shortly before Travis’s military service began in 2019, Knoop took him to visit the 9/11 Memorial & Museum in New York City.

“You can hear a pin drop [at the Memorial],” Knoop said. “I never in my life experienced anything like that.”

As Knoop tended to Lucy at her feet last Friday, a couple pulled up alongside her front yard and rolled down their vehicle’s windows, clearly in awe of the sight of all those flags.

“That is a beautiful, beautiful job,” a woman sitting in the passenger seat said to Knoop. “Thank you.”

Sara Knoop along with her family and friends (no particular order) including Wendell and Zane Knoop, Evan Waller, Gavin Knoop, Angie Zeien, Sherry Zeien, Matt Davis, Maureen Hanus, Troy and Alicia Titcomb, Todd, Amy, Michael, Levi and Jaelyn Harmsen, Eva Williams, and Patty Seuss pose for a photo on Wednesday, September 8, 2021 after spending several hours helping Knoop place 2,997 American flags in her Traer yard in memory of those lost on 9/11. Contributed photo.