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Grand Park flag garden opens with help of 103-year-old female war veteran

By Hayley Fox
Published: Tuesday, September 11, 2012, at 11:47AM
Anibal Ortiz / KPCC

Jason Young, left, retired Chief Master Sgt. of the US Air force and Vietnam veteran grabs onto 103-year-old Bea Cohen, the oldest WWII woman veteran of the US Army.

The newest portion of Downtown's Grand Park opened Tuesday with a 9/11 tribute, ceremonial flag raising and the participation of multiple military, fire department and sheriff personnel -- including a 103-year-old war veteran.

Private First Class Bea Cohen is the oldest living female WWII veteran in America, and received an emotional standing ovation when she was introduced.

"I was photographing her when she raised the flag and she kissed the flag before she raised it," said Councilwoman Jan Perry, who spoke at the event. "And it brought tears to her eyes. It brought tears to my eyes."

Although Perry's council district no longer encompasses the park, she has been involved in its development since the very beginning. She said the newest block, dubbed the Community Terrace which spans from Hill to Broadway, is a very "flexible space" and will be used for everything from arts and crafts, to musical performances and farmers markets.

The space is dotted with the now familiar hot pink benches, drought-resistant plants and expanses of concrete bordered by grass sections and dirt paths.

Prior to recent construction, this area was known as the "Court of Flags," with flags placed in a east-to-west configuration. Now, the flags run north-to-south, and officials say this set-up will "increase their visibility" to people walking and driving down nearby streets.

"The flags are a perfect symbol of our collective memory of the first responders as well as the civilian victims of the September 11th attacks," said L.A. County Supervisor Gloria Molina in a statement.

L.A. County Sheriff's Deputy Amber Garcia was part of the Color Guard processional at today's event, which includes military and law enforcement marching with the U.S., California and Los Angeles County flags. Garcia said 9/11 is an important day for her and officers everywhere.

"It's huge for us, because basically our brothers and sisters, whether its New York [Police Department] or any other agency, went in there [on Sept. 11], put their life on the line for somebody else, and we do that every single day all over the nation," Garcia said.

The final portion of the 12-acre Grand Park, stretching from Broadway to Spring, is scheduled to open October 6. Molina said this large lawn will be the "epicenter" of programming in the park and a central gathering space for DTLA.

"It was always the hope to open everything at the same time but we're doing it in stages," said Perry. "And that's OK, as long as it gets done."

Other 9/11 coverage:
Tell KPCC how 9/11 changed your life, and we'll share your story
Airtalk: How should we commemorate the 9/11 tragedy in America?


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