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PORTLAND, MAINE --

The flowers were planted in the form of an American flag and they were on a slope at the end of a street that ran down to the harbor and straight out, around a hook of land, where the cold Atlantic broke over large rocks, foam pouring off like heavy rain.

The flag had a border of orange and yellow marigolds. Inside was a field of petunias -- red, white and purple, which stood for the blue. Tufts of silvery gray formed the flagstaff.

A simple sign standing next to the flowers said: In Memoriam of the Heroes and Victims of September 11.

Special tribute to seven Maine victims: Robert Jalbert, James M. Raux, Stephen G. Ward, Carol Flyzik, Robert Norton, Commander Robert A. Schlegel, Jacqueline North.

It was breathtakingly small and moving and significant, and it stood for all. The flowers soon must withstand the cold winds whistling off the ocean and across the harbor.

But that is what all this turmoil, this reaching for the sky to solve what happened here, is all about. In the spring, when the gardeners appear, the plants will sprout new blossoms and the outline of the flag, lashed with freezing rain, covered with snow, will become a bold gold again.

On a winter day, those paying respects will feel their faces smart in the wind and ungloved hands would sting. Boots would be needed for the damp earth. There are no benches. You just stand in the cold.

But this is what it should be.

The flowers in the form of a flag on the hill overlooking the harbor and ocean are living, and they represent all the living that was done by the dead, and all the life that they left to those who loved them so much. Of course the wind should make your face cold. How could you dare go to a memorial such as this and be in perfect comfort?

The woman who took me to the flowers, Penelope Pachios Carson, talked moodily about last year in Portland, where Mohamed Atta stayed the night of Sept. 10 in room 233 of the Comfort Inn and then at 5:45 a.m. on the 11th flew to Boston on a commuter flight.

There, he walked onto another plane, in this case the American Airlines plane loaded with gas to fly to another ocean. Atta flew it into the trade center's north tower.

In the fog and rain one recent morning, all flights to Boston were delayed at least a half-hour at Portland, and then it was another wait to land at Boston. If there had been this kind of weather last year, the usual Maine fall mornings, the American Airlines plane would have been gone in the sky before Atta reached the gate.

At least 10 of the killers were Saudi Arabians. Our friends. The mastermind was Osama bin Laden, whose heritage and hatred is Saudi. Yet last year, only hours after the attack, bin Laden relatives and other moneyed Saudis in the United States were helped by FBI agents into planes so they could flee.

I believe that one plane had only seven passengers. This year, only a few days ago, President George W. Bush, with much excitement, had the Saudi Arabian ambassador come to his house in Texas for a real fine meeting and lots of pictures.

The Saudis murder us and their country has done nothing about it, nor stamped out any possible next group, not one single solitary potential murderer.

Instead, the Saudi rulers, as former Senator Pat Moynihan described them, "sit in their flowing robes, drinking coffee."

The preoccupation of Bush is Iraq. We must go to war with Iraq, he keeps insisting.

I don't know how dangerous Iraq is. I'm sure that Bush doesn't know, either. I do know that it seems better for him to growl about Iraq than to count the Saudi killers of the World Trade Center, and count them even if it is a full year later, for it still is not too late to reach out and get even with these people one way or another as they sit in their flowing robes with their coffee.

The flowers on the hill stand for this, too. They are delicate and they are beautiful, but when the wind comes they do not snap off or die.

They resist. They wave and make a threshing sound and they resist.

Jimmy Breslin is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for New York Newsday.

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