In 2006, Clifford Kipp and his 4-year-old son, Cooper, attended Marietta’s second Field of Flags event, in which almost 3,000 American flags — one for every person killed five years earlier on 9/11 — were placed at Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park.
“I started telling him, you know, about those bad people in the world, and how they did this because they might be jealous of America or whatever, and how lucky we are,” Clifford Kipp said recently, recalling that day 15 years ago. “I started to want to say a little prayer, and I couldn’t even start.
“And this little guy, with his chubby cheeks and his little Opie Taylor voice, said, ‘I’ll do it, Dad,’ and this little prayer came out of him, and it just killed me.”
They embraced, and an MDJ reporter covering the event snapped a photo of father and son. He ran them down as they left to get their names for the caption.
“And then a couple days later, people started calling,” Clifford Kipp said.
He framed the picture. Cooper Kipp, credits the image with his patriotism and cites it as a grounding force in his life. On a recent afternoon, father and son, joined by Cooper Kipp’s younger brother, River, returned to the Field of Flags to reminisce about that day so many year ago.
Cooper Kipp, now 20, attends Florida State University in Tallahassee.
“Growing up in the first house we had, you had that picture in your bedroom, and I saw it every day growing up,” he said on a recent trip home, talking to his father. “I knew it would always be there, and (I could) always go back to it to remember where I’m from, what happened and why I’m a patriot.”
He even chose to write about that picture in his college application essay.
His brother River Kipp, only three months old at the time, said he learned about 9/11 in school. When he was in sixth grade, he and his family took a trip to New York, and stopped by the 9/11 memorial.
“I never really got to an emotional level, a deep emotional level about it until I went to the museum in New York,” he said. “And then started feeling a lot of anger, sadness, and I’m not the most emotional person, but I started crying in the museum, just looking at the wall of all the people in the families that were affected by it.”
Clifford Kipp lives on Kennesaw Mountain, and every five years, when the Kiwanis Club of Marietta, along with hundreds of volunteers, install the flags for the week-long memorial, he gets a little teary as he drives past it. He said he’s glad the Kiwanis Club still organizes the memorial every five years.
“Now, people are wondering why — people younger than (River): ‘Why? What’s going on? What’s this all about?’” he said. “It keeps the conversation going, which I think is very important.”