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Watson_Walter 1 9.11.18

Retired U.S. Air Force staff sergeant Walter Watson holds a flag on Tuesday on the U.S. 51 bridge over I-72 in honor of 9/11 emergency responders and U.S. military members. The man on the left, who asked to remain unidentified, saw Watson’s display as he was driving by and was moved to stop his car and stand with him.

DECATUR — Walter Watson describes himself as a simple man.

On Tuesday morning, the Vietnam veteran did something memorable by positioning himself on a busy overpass holding an American flag. He had wanted to do this simple act for a while and decided the 9/11 anniversary would honor many.

“This is not about me,” said Watson, 68. “It’s for the first responders. We need to honor and respect them.”

For two hours, at about the same time Americans sat and watched as their world was changing 17 years ago, Watson held a flag pole with the flag flapping in the wind. He stood facing east on the U.S. 51 overpass as traffic from Interstate 72 drove under him.

“Thousands crossed underneath me from Forsyth to Decatur,” Watson said. “Several were honking their horns and waving.”

Watson was also approached by a police officer and a sheriff's deputy asking about his intentions. He explained what he was doing. “And I told him I wouldn't leave my post,” Watson told the first officer. “He said he was just concerned about my safety.”

Watson said he was touched by those who acknowledged him and his flag, including a woman who stopped to give him a donut and a cup of coffee.

“But I’m just a common Joe honoring their memories,” he said.

Watson remained at his post until the time he remembered the twin towers fell in New York City, NY, 17 years ago.

“What is a couples of hours of time compared to the lives lost?” he said.

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Contact Donnette Beckett at (217) 421-6983. Follow her on Twitter: @donnettebHR

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"Together Decatur" Columnist and Food and Drink Reporter

“Together Decatur” columnist and food and drink reporter for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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