Neighbors of the Parrot Mill Inn awoke Labor Day morning to a vibrant tribute to the tenth anniversary of 9/11. In unique fashion, Toby Kennedy wrapped his family's former business in a panoply of American flags, which will remain in place for the next week.
Kennedy said over the years he had amassed a large collection of flags and wanted to put them to good use. Included in the tribute are many flags with just 48 stars, something quite rare, Kennedy said.
Two friends, Charlie Lehman and Rob Dangler, both from Chatham, helped Kennedy with this project. It took the trio two days to cover the front and side of the building.
“At first we were just going to do the front, but then we had so many flags, we decided to keep going,” said Kennedy. "It's a work in progress."
Kennedy's mother Betsy and his father Frank, a Marine, purchased the Parrot Mill Inn in 1985 and officially opened the doors to travelers in 1986. Kennedy said he wanted to do something to acknowledge the 9/11 anniversary as it coincided with the inn's changing hands.
“It is passing to a new owner," Kennedy said. "While we're not quite sure what's going on with the building, exactly, it's a good thing and the town should be happy. But this is a memorial."
The Chatham native said he lost a younger classmate, Gary Haag, who was also raised in Chatham, during the terrorist attacks.
"We do a golf outing for him every year," said Kennedy. "His name will be included in the memorial ceremony."
So far the look is receiving mostly positive reviews, according to the man behind the flags. Some have even likened it to a three-dimensional Jasper Johns painting.
"Anyone who wants to take pictures is welcome to," said Kennedy. "It’ll be up this week and probably be in place until sometime next week."
Brian Mahoney, who served in the U.S. Navy, and Jim Allan, a Korean War veteran, both stopped by to be photographed in front of the Inn.
"That's Toby," said Mahoney. "Who else would think of something like that? It's what patriotism is all about. God bless America."
"I thought it looked terrific," said Allan. "Toby worked his butt off to put that up. I don't know how he did it. My son Doug thought it looked terrific, too."
Kennedy also graduated from high school with Ken Swenson, who worked for Cantor Fitzgerald and perished on 9/11. "I grew up with him and his wife Leslie," he said.
Kennedy also remembers a neighbor of his mother's Robin Larkey, who was also employed by Cantor Fitzgerald.
"He moved from England from wife Tracy and their three children, one of whom served in Afghanistan," he said. "This is a memorial for everyone but these are the three people who stand out in my mind and their families are definitely in my prayers."
"My husband and I just came back from seeing the 9/11 memorial that Toby Kennedy constructed," Diane Conlan, of Chatham, wrote in an email to Patch. "It's quite impressive. Check it out and make sure you take your camera with you."