By Alton Porter
A modest crowd of citizens gathered at The Moosehead Café in Crockett on Friday, Sept. 9, to join in a precursor to the national day of remembrance and service honoring American heroes and others who perished on the tragic day of 9/11/01.
The event was sponsored by The Moosehead Café and the Crockett Area Chamber of Commerce, in recognition of firefighters, law enforcement, first responders and military personnel, who give so dutifully to our country at-large and in individual communities. The public was invited to attend the remembrance.
Today, Sunday, Sept. 11, marks the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy.
Sept. 11 is the day in 2001 when 19 terrorists associated with the Islamic extremist group al-Qaeda hijacked four American airlines and carried out suicide attacks against targets in the United States.
Two of the seized airplanes were flown into the towers of the World Trade Center in New York City (NYC), a third commandeered plane struck the Pentagon in Arlington County, VA, across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. And the fourth plane crashed in a field in rural Shanksville, PA.
The terroristic attacks resulted in extensive death, injuries and destruction – more than 3,000 people killed in the attacks in NYC and Washington, D.C. More than 400 of those murdered were firefighters, paramedics, police officers and other first responders. The day is recorded as the deadliest day in the history for NYC firefighters, as 343 of them perished.
Almost 10,000 other people were injured – many of them seriously – in the brutal attacks.
Joni Clonts, owner of The Moosehead Café opened the program in Crockett on Friday.
"Even though (a biggest part of the tragedy) happened up in New York, that was us," Clonts said. "And that's something we should never forget.
"And also, we're here today because we truly appreciate law enforcement, the fire department, first responders because, I'm telling you all, I don't think people really know what goes on when you all go out.
"We're here in a little bubble. Normal people do not know what you all do. We truly appreciate you all for everything you all do for our county.
"And, I don't know if I've ever said this before, but I think the Sheriff's (Office) and the Police Department have so much class. Our officers, the police department, firefighters, everybody. I think you all are outstanding people."
Then, Houston County Judge Erin Ford spoke to the audience.
"Every time there is a siren, every time there's a flashing light, every time there's a speeding police car or fire truck or EMS (emergency medical service vehicle), it's made up of people who dedicate their lives to this," Ford said. "They put themselves in harm's way. You guys put yourselves in harm's way.
"You do it without expecting ... appreciation. You do it because you're servants. You have a servant's heart. And, for us, we can only do the business of managing the county and the city and our government because we have you guys to protect us and take care of us and support us. So, it's a huge responsibility on your part. And you don't get the appreciation that you really deserve.
"Fifteen years ago, everyone of us should be able to remember what we were doing when 9/11 occurred. I remember exactly what I was doing. We're losing that right now. There's no major mention of it in the papers. There's no major mention of it in the news. There's no local memorial of this.
"I want to thank Joni for using this restaurant really to bring our communities together. This is a ministry for her to bring us all together. And God bless every one of you."
Next, Crockett Mayor Robert Meadows spoke.
"I'm not much on words, but I would like to also extend appreciation to Joni for not only remembering the significance of this date in our nation's history, but also, to give thanks to those who go out every day. And I think it was alluded to – really not knowing from one call to the next whether it's one of those little minor things that's more of a nuisance or if it's going to be a situation where your lives are actually put in jeopardy.
"And I personally cannot imagine what it would be like to have multiple calls every day, not knowing whether it's one of those minor things or a life-altering thing. And that takes a special person. It's a calling.
"And those who go into law enforcement or first responders – fire department – and are not called, get weeded out pretty quickly. But, those who have the longevity, the staying power, you're cut differently than other people. Most of us aren't made that way.
"And I, for one – along with these people gathered here – want to tell you how much we appreciate you. And the commemoration of this point 15 years ago in our country, changed everything. You know, that Mayberry feeling left most of us.
"Now, we're in a blessed area of the country. I feel like it. We still gather like this. And we still praise God and give Him thanks for His protection over us. But, we also still recognize, you guys aren't perfect – we're not perfect. But, you're doing a service that is – it's above needed. It's a necessity. And we just can't thank you enough.
"I know you don't hear it enough. You hear a lot of negative things. But, we're here to tell you we appreciate you, and we appreciate how you serve and the way you serve."
Then, Meadows read a letter from Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) to all Texans, in which Cornyn stated in part, "we can take comfort by remembering how, in the aftermath of these attacks and in the 15 years since, Americans overcame tragedy by joining together and lifting each other up.
"We remember how so many Americans selflessly responded to those in need that day. Firefighters, policemen, emergency medical personnel, and thousands of patriotic citizens put their lives on the line to offer every bit of assistance they could, whether clearing debris, carrying victims, or simply providing a glimmer of hope and a helping hand.
"Out of that tragedy rose countless American heroes, and those heroes have come to define part of the spirit and soul of the United States of America.
"As we continue to fight the evil that still exists in the world, I join with others in honoring the American heroes who rose to the occasion on that day, and the heroes that continue to keep us safe.
"May God bless and bring comfort to the survivors of 9/11, the families and friends of victims, all those who answered the call to help their fellow Americans that day, and our servicemen and women who stepped into harm's way at home and overseas in the weeks and months and years that followed."
Closing out the remarks at the remembrance ceremony was Jeannie Julian, executive director of the Crockett Area Chamber of Commerce.
"God bless America, the land that I love," Julian began. "I'm so sorry that we're not standing beside her and we're not guiding her like we have in the past. Today, I say thanks be to God for all the great things He's given us and an opportunity to use our gifts on His behalf.
"As we leave this place today, I hope that everyone will note that you were here for a reason. So, God bless America, land that I love."
After the conclusion of the remarks, Pastor and Evangelist Darryl Bennett of Eastgate Family Church, closed the ceremony in prayer.