It was a day of reflection, remembrance and patriotism Sept. 11 as area firefighters, police officers, veterans, VFW members and citizens gathered at the Galax Police Station for the 2nd Annual 9/11 Memorial Service.
Galax Mayor C.M. Mitchell, Galax Police Chief Rick Clark, Galax/Grayson EMS Chief Ron Passmore and Carroll County Emergency Services Coordinator Mike Mock all gave touching and stirring speeches as they honored and remembered the nearly 3,000 Americans lost in the terrorist attacks of 12 years ago. Carolyn Honeycutt also sang the national anthem and led the Pledge of Allegiance, while the Grayson VFW Post 7726 played Taps and the Galax High School Band performed America The Beautiful. One area citizen, Mitchell Robinson, brought his own American flag and displayed it proudly throughout the ceremony.
Mitchell said Americans do what they do best in the minutes, hours, days and weeks following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 – they came together as one nation united in community purpose. Maintaining the community spirit that followed in the aftermath of that day will be key in keeping America strong, he said.
“Yet today it is worth remembering what has not changed. Our character as a nation has not changed. Our faith in God and in each other, that has not changed. Our belief in America, born of a timeless ideal that men and women should govern themselves, that all people are created equal and deserve the same freedom to determine their own destiny, that belief through tests and trials has already been strengthened,” Mitchell said. “Patriotism and remembrance remain a large component of our reflection. We remain one nation, one people united in a shared purpose and sacrifice. With a just God as our guide, let us honor those who have been lost, let us rededicate ourselves to the ideals that define our nation and let us work to the future with hearts full of hope. May God bless the memory of those we lost and may God bless the United States of America.”
Clark began his speech reflecting on a day that came nearly 70 years before Sept. 11, 2011. On Dec. 7, 1941, America was attacked by an enemy that resulted in the death of many at Pearl Harbor. Many wars have been fought since that time and many Americans have given their lives to make sure it would never happen again. But 12 years ago it did happen again.
“On that day we witnessed in unbelievable horror as over 2,000 people lost their lives. Of those killed, 411 were first responders - the police officers and fire fighters who responded, the policemen and firemen who without hesitation that day ran into the Twin Towers to aid and assist and save the lives of people they did not know,” Clark said. “As we remember and mourn their loss, I want each of you to always remember in your prayers the victims of that day, keep them and their families in your prayers and ask God to continue to bring them comfort. Honor the men and women that put their lives on the line each day in America as they stand in harm’s way. Keep that in your prayers as we serve the community. And last and most importantly, I ask you to pray for peace in this world as our Lord taught us to pray that the Kingdom of God be manifested on earth just as it is in Heaven, and that the leaders of this country and nations across the world seek the wisdom through prayer to resolve our differences.”
Passmore said just as Pearl Harbor Day defined a generation, September 11 has indelibly shaped who we are, how we live our daily lives, and what we believe in. He said he believes what shocked us the most was not the unthinkable, diabolical method used to attack us, or the scope or magnitude of the attacks.
“It was our way of life that was attacked, our way of life that embraces freedom and democracy, our way of life that rewards hard work and perseverance and yet encourages selflessness and generosity, our way of life that recognizes and respects varying opinions in society and still preserves the rights of all to express those opinions, our way of life that allows us to worship freely and live differently,” Passmore said. “The United States of America remains one of the most desirable places on this planet to live, and not for our oceans and plains, not for our mountains and rivers, and not for our forests, farms or technology, but for our freedom. The attacks on the morning of September 11 provided us an ugly, painful reminder of the evil, the rage and resentment which resides in the hearts of some.”
When Americans gather next year, or even five or 10 years from now, nobody can promise we will hurt any less, Passmore said.
“No words, no ceremony, no plaques or stones and no amount of tears will ever replace our losses, but what this memorial service can do is to provide us with a solemn place to remember and reflect so that we can move on, each in our own way. Let this memorial service provide everyone here in the Twin Counties a reminder to take nothing for granted, appreciate our freedoms, count our blessings, strive to help our fellow man and cherish our friends and families,” Passmore said. “And let this memorial service remind us of the American spirit which burns in all of us, that way of life which makes this the greatest nation on earth.”
While many of the 3,000 Americans killed Sept. 11, 2001 were firefighters, rescue personnel and police officers, Mike Mock said it should also be noted many Americans were saved because of their efforts. Many Americans were saved because of the actions of fellow countrymen on Flight 93, who took down an airliner headed for Washington, D.C.
“May we never forget the attack on America. Some questioned that day and said ‘God, why are you allowing this to happen to us? What is going on?’ But I challenge you to remember that God was really with us that day in the many tens of thousands of people who were actually saved from the attacks that could have been more devastating,” Mock said. “A lot the people who were rescuing people did not die in vain because they were rescuing people that were trapped in those towers.”
Since September 11, 2001, Mock said many people have asked him as a firefighter if he would have gone into the World Trade Center on that day to rescue people.
“I look around and I see police officers, I see firefighters, I see EMS personnel and I know the volunteers all over Carroll County, Grayson County and the City of Galax, every one of those people would have done exactly the same thing. They would have gone into the towers to try to rescue people because they look at that as their duty,” Mock said. “In addition, many young Americans have joined the volunteer military and have gone to help protect America from that ever happening again. So I ask that you remember that. May we never forget and may we please thank those who protect us each day. God bless America.”