RACINE — Meigs County’s first responders looked on as members of the Racine American Legion raised the Nation’s Flag while the Southern Local High School Marching Band performed the Star Spangled Banner to begin the 9-11 Memorial Service on Saturday. Fire trucks and rescue vehicles parked in the background were a reminder of the quick response of the men and women in New York, Washington D.C., and Pennsylvania 18 years ago.
Taps followed, and the Flag was lowered to half staff during the duration of the ceremonies.
Keynote speaker Meigs County Deputy Sheriff Matthew Martin began by saying, “Nearly 3,000 men, women and children were lost in the attacks that happened on September 11, 2001. Our hearts go out to the more than 6,000 service members who have given their lives in Afghanistan and in Iraq, as well as tens of thousands of our wounded warriors, and the Gold Star Families of our fallen heroes. We honor and remember those lost, but we also recognize that on that day, a date that once held no special meaning to us, our country and a generation of Americans were changed in an instant.”
Martin said that just as Pearl Harbor and World War II defined a generation, the events of 9-11 and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have defined what he referred to as the 9-11 generation. He said it includes more than five million Americans who have served in a completely transformed military in the past 18 years.
Martin believes the 9-11 generation as a group has transformed significantly, and is the embodiment of a quote from Winston Churchill, “Kites rise highest against the wind, not with it.”
Transformation is the thorough or dramatic change in form or appearance, and while many aspects of these changes have been positive, there have also been some very negative consequences this generation is dealing with, including substance abuse.
“Nationwide communities face an unprecedented rise in substance abuse fatalities. Our goal at the Meigs County Sheriff’s Office is to change this epidemic, beginning at an early age.”
School Resource Officers have been assigned in each of the three school districts with the goal of providing students with a safer environment, the opportunity to make drug and alcohol education available, and to build a lifelong positive relationship with Law Enforcement Officers. The sheriff’s office also hosts events to encourage those relationships, including Shop with a Cop, Hooked on Fishing Not on Drugs, and Prevention Day at the Meigs County Fair.
Martin is one of those Resource Officers, and concluded, “This Office will continue to strive and to protect and education not only the youth, but all of Meigs County. God bless you all, and God bless America.”
As a minister in the United Methodist Church, Pastor Larry Fisher’s message was to remind and assure everyone that God is always with us, even when terrible things happen, and that there is a reminder of His presence if we just look for it.
“We all have fears, some of us fear spiders, or heights, some of us are claustrophobic, but God knows our fears. There are many examples where God’s first words to us are “Don’t be afraid,” but we are, it is just who we are, from small things to large things, we have our fears. “
Fisher said that on 9-11 it was easy to become afraid, no one knew exactly what had happened, and many people, including himself, found themselves in potentially dangerous situations.
“My family and I were living in Louisiana near Barksdale Air Force Base. If you remember, Air Force One with President George W. Bush landed at Barksdale on 9-11.”
President Bush was brought to Barksdale Air Force Base after learning of the attacks, and it was there the President gave his first address to the nation.
“So here we all were, near the base, a base that is of strategic importance, a base used to store bombers and nuclear weapons. Were we at risk of an attack? No one knew what was happening, we were afraid. So how did our community deal with this? The community turned to God, with prayers and church services. God said don’t be afraid.”
“The cross found in the ruins at Ground Zero in New York City was a reminder that God is still with us in the midst of tragedy.”
To the officers and first responders, he said, “Remember that God is with you in those moments when you walk into unknown and dangerous situations. Thank you to all of those who protect us.”
Albert Proffit directed the ceremony, and is the builder of the 9-11 Memorial Cross that sits near the Racine American Legion Post No. 602 Veteran’s Memorial.
Profitt said that he was inspired to build a replica of the cross found at Ground Zero when he saw some pieces of metal that looked similar.
“I saw those scraps of metal and they just reminded me of the ones found among the rubble of the Twin Towers, so I used them to make the Cross. I just felt it was something I needed to do,” Profit said.
The community of Racine takes time each year during Party in the Park to remember 9-11, and Profitt’s memorial is a continual reminder to all who pass by to “Never Forget.”
“The ceremony is to show respect for those that secure our safety. There has been no closure to the devastation that happened that day, more lives have been lost (by first responders) due to asbestos in the air from the buildings’ (Twin Towers) collapse, and by our military. This is something ongoing, we don’t let the pain go, we just learn how to deal with it,” said Proffitt.
Lorna Hart is a freelance writer for The Daily Sentinel.