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HOLDEN, Maine — A decade ago, after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Buddy Patterson and his wife, Brenda, painted a large flag on the grass in their backyard “just to show our respects,” he said Tuesday.
The family made another flag one year later to honor those lost in the attacks and the troops fighting in the Middle East, Patterson said.
This year, a few days before the 10th anniversary of the attacks, Patterson decided to scale up the effort.
Patterson, 61, called in his two daughters, Shelley Fahey and Melissa McLaughlin, and two youngest grandsons, Scott Fahey, 7, and James Fahey, 8, to lend a hand.
“They were really looking forward to coming out and helping,” Patterson said.
Patterson, who worked as a toolmaker at General Electric before retiring eight years ago, went online to find the dimensions and proportions of the American flag — everything from the width of the stripes to the size of the stars.
This year’s flag is larger than ones he painted in 2001 and 2002, he said. There’s no shortage of room on his Long View Drive property, which was once home to a potato farm, he said. He bought the land and built his home in 2000.
He painted the newest flag using a water-based latex paint to create a star-spangled banner with a hoist (width) of 78 feet and a fly (length) of 132 feet. The family used about 28 gallons of paint, each gallon mixed with 2 or 3 gallons of water.
He said he checked to make sure the paint wouldn’t contaminate the ground or the grass on his lawn and got the OK from the town before starting the project.
In all, he said it took about a week to complete the flag from planning stages to staking out the straight lines for the stars and stripes to painting.
Since he finished the flag, passers-by on Copeland Hill Road have stopped in to gawk and take pictures. He said he even gets quite a few viewers from above.
“Normally I have a lot of personal planes flying over when they hear about it to check it out,” Patterson said.
His house also lies under the flight path of military planes flying into Bangor International Airport, including the MAINEiacs 101st Air Refueling Wing and planes bringing soldiers to and from deployments overseas.
He said he hopes soldiers have noticed.
Since the flag was finished on Sept. 10, the grass has grown and the colors of the flag are fading. Patterson said he expects it to last only a few more days.
It’s a sight the people “probably won’t see in the backyard again,” Patterson said.
Patterson is selling his home and plans to move to Florida before the Maine snow starts to fall.
“I don’t want to see more of that,” he said, laughing. “I’m getting tired of it.”