TEXAS CITY — Those who drive by Nessler Park beginning Sunday will see a display of 1,498 waving American flags, but these flags are not the object of a city’s sense of patriotism or its support for the U.S. troops. Instead, each flag is a representation of a loved one killed on Texas roads in 2012 because of drunken driving.
The Bay Area Council on Drugs and Alcohol, a nonprofit organization that has partnered with United Way to increase awareness about the dangers of drinking and driving, will host the Sixth annual Healing Field event.
Initially, the Healing Field was a memorial to pay homage to those lost on 9/11. However, in recent years the project has spread nationwide and is now used to support multiple causes.
“In 2006 our staff heard about it, and it’s something we started looking at because Texas leads the nation in alcohol-related traffic fatalities, and Harris County leads Texas,” said Jennifer Newton, communication coordinator for the council.
The event will span Monday through Thursday.
Student volunteer groups and trustees from the county will install the flags Sunday, but the field will not be open to the public until the next day.
Each day of the event will focus on a specific theme.
Monday’s theme is Connection Day, which allows visitors to walk through the field so they can either share stories with one another or pay their respects in silence.
“The main programming for that day is it’s the first day the field is open to the public,” Newton said. “The United Way and some other services are going to have booths set up.”
There will be a free concert performance by local musician Keith Rea from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. and a yoga class at 5 p.m.
Recovery Day is Tuesday and will educate visitors using the “The Anonymous People,” a 40-minute documentary that chronicles the long-term alcoholic recovery of politicians, celebrities, authors, a beauty pageant winner and ordinary people while they attempt to erase the stigmatizing stereotypes society places on them.
There are two speakers Tuesday evening: James Starks, a recovering alcoholic and licensed chemical dependence counselor, and Sheri Smith, whose husband was killed by a driver under the influence.
“I lost my husband 10 years ago to a drunk driver, and his stepson was in the car with him and now he’s a paraplegic,” said Smith. “I share about that and what it’s like and how we’re supposed to move on.”
Wednesday’s theme is Faith Day.
“Faith Day was a new part of the event for us this year,” said Newton. “At this time, no formal programming is confirmed. However, we continue to have strong support from faith communities in this area. We are grateful to them for supporting our message and helping get the word out about the event.”
Thursday is Youth Day, when students are brought to the field so they can visually comprehend the consequences of drunken driving.
“We’ve got 200 students coming from different schools,” said Rusty Cockrell, assistant director of Youthworks.
Newton said: “We have a lot of educational signs set up around the field. There’s a specific way to tour through the field so we can look and talk about the different aspects of the issues.”
Cockrell says the Texas City Police Department is bringing a customized car for the teenagers to drive. The car simulates how it would be to drive a car under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
The field is fully accessible to the public between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday.
Visitors can donate by purchasing a flag on the council’s website, www.BACODA.org. All proceeds go toward helping to stop alcohol and drug abuse.
“The event has grown to become a really meaningful memorial for the community members and so many of our lives have been touched by this issue,” said Newton. “Most of us know someone ourselves who died from drinking and driving. It’s just something that touches so many lives.”
At a glance
WHAT: Healing Fields
WHEN: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday
WHERE: Nessler Park and Doyle Convention Center, 1700 5th Ave N, Texas City