After 18 years proudly hoisting the Stars and Stripes every Tuesday, three Maine women have ended their flag-waving tradition that began after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Several hundred people joined Elaine Greene, Joann Miller and Carmen Foote on Wednesday to support the trio known as the "Freeport flag ladies."
Following the terrorist attack, Greene, 74, was moved to dig out an American flag in her home and stand on a hill to show support for victims.
Eventually, Greene was joined by Miller, 83, and Foote, 77. They got their nickname and eventually custom red jackets.
Their weekly tradition of waving the flag every Tuesday from 8 to 9 a.m. came to an end on the 9/11 anniversary Wednesday because Greene said their healths are taking a toll.
"There are so many mixed emotions," Greene said. "Sadness and gratitude are probably the strongest."
The ladies have powered through snow, lightning and, just this past Tuesday, Foote fractured a wrist.
"It's alright, I just wish I had two good hands," she said.
Among the hundreds of people who lined Main Street to show their appreciation for the trio at their final display were Gov. Janet Mills and former Gov. Paul LePage.
Members of Gold Star families who drove from three hours away also attended.
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"I had to come down here and support these dedicated ladies," said James Trout, whose grandson, U.S. Army Spc. Dustin Harris was killed in 2006 in Iraq.
After their "last stand," the ladies were driven to nearby Memorial Park where an hour-long ceremony was held in their honor.
At its conclusion, they were surprised with a gift of a trip to visit the 9/11 Memorial in New York City and other war memorials in Washington, D.C., which were paid for by donations.
Volunteers who organized the donation effort said they would cash the check on the ladies' behalf because they knew the women would want to donate the money to another cause instead.
The flag-waving in Freeport may have ended but a new tradition will be beginning hundreds of miles away in Columbia Falls.
Non-profit Wreaths Across America, one of the organizations the ladies support, has fashioned a flag pole on which a flag will be raised each Tuesday at 9 a.m. to honor 9/11 victims. That flag will be raised for the first time on Sept. 17, 2019.