More than a hundred red, white and blue kites soared over the Long Beach boardwalk Saturday in a stirring seaside tribute to lives lost.
The kites, flown by children and adults, honored the people who perished during the Sept. 11 terror attacks a decade ago. The ninth annual Freedom Flight, held on the boardwalk from Neptune to Franklin boulevards, was intended to foster unity, hope and healing, organizers said.
"This event was created because we felt flying a kite was a way to free the spirit," said co-organizer Sandy Held of Freeport, who lost four friends in the attacks.
"No matter what religion you are, there is something special about flying a kite," Held said.
The event featured an appearance by the Travel Channel's "Sand Masters" -- Matt Long, 56, of Staten Island; Andrew Gertler, 52, of Sea Cliff; and Greg Askins, 56, of Manhattan -- who transformed a 15-ton mound of sand into a sculpture of kites and clouds.
"As a New Yorker, we feel very close to the tragedy of 9/11 and we just want to give back," said Askins, who also lost friends when the Twin Towers fell. "This is our way to give back."
People planted miniature American flags around the sand monument and offered silent prayers. Others shared their emotions by decorating a white sheet with heartfelt drawings and sentiments.
"It's a way to honor those who passed away, those who are still alive and those who serve in the military," said Bonnie Giebfried, 46, of Islip, who served at Ground Zero as an emergency medical technician and has since developed asthma.
"It's healing," she said.
On the boardwalk, Giebfried gave a history lesson to a group of young children and their parents. She got their undivided attention as she told them she had been buried alive twice -- after each tower collapsed.
"It's a nice way to remember Sept. 11 and what the day is about," said Virginia Feinberg of Lido Beach, who brought her son Sean, 8. They were joined by her friend Diana Schimmel of Long Beach, and her son Griffen, also 8.
"This is the first time they got to interact with a first responder who was at Ground Zero," Feinberg said.