Touching tribute

What started as a day of prayer and remembrance for the over 3,000 victims of the horrific terrorist attacks in New York and Washington D.C 16 years ago on Sept. 9, has evolved into Patriot’s Day, a day to additionally honor the heroes, the first responders that have fallen in the line of duty.

Quiet introspection, hand on heart and a lump in one’s throat typified the Patriot Day tribute on the Meridian Courthouse lawn Monday.

“Today marks 15 years we have held a memorial service her at this courthouse for the brave men and women who lost their lives that day,” Bosque County Judge Don Pool said in his word of welcome. “Our focus has been on all casualties, but specifically on the lives of first responders. A day that changed our world forever.”

In the 9/11 attacks 2,996 people lost their live - 403 of which were first responders. Since 9/11/2001, 4,076 first responders have laid down their lives in the line of duty – 395 last year alone.

“There is an actual increase of 20 percent for the past year,” Pool said expressing his concern regarding the rising figures.

“We are granted a real privilege to live in America, and even more privilege to live in Texas,” Pool said. “Life is good for most of us. It will continue as long as we don’t forget the cost of a good life.”

Several traditional items were present in the ceremony honoring the heroes, like a poem by Bosque County Poet Laureate Sherrod Fielden in which he succinctly voiced all the emotions surrounding the ceremony – the shock of 9/11, millions tears shed, picking up the pieces and moving on, finding solace in God’s Love and hope for a brighter day, calling first responders “our lifeline. God blesses them with strength to spare.”

And country singer Alan Jackson’s song “Where were you when the world stopped turning?” as always struck a sensitive chord.

All firefighters, EMS workers, law enforcement officers and representatives from the entire county stood on the courthouse lawn, hand or hat on heart, during the symbolic raising and lowering to half mast of the nation’s flag, after which Bosque County Sheriff’s Office Sharon Wilson read the agonizing 9/11’s final calls from a Bosque County Sheriff’s Office vehicle loudspeaker, which included the call for the West explosion and the call to assist in Dallas after police officers were shot during a protest.

This year a huge 39 x 20 foot flag hung from the Meridian Volunteer Fire Department ladder truck – a combat flag that was flown over Afghanistan when its owner Sgt. Major James Booker was stationed there. As Brian Barrett played and sang the National Anthem, a breeze opened the impressive flag to its full glory, opening the guests’ patriotic hearts. Barrett also led in “Amazing Grace,” and “God Bless America.” Just before William Edwards played Taps in honor of the fallen first responders, Meridian Volunteer Fire Department member Mike Walker rang the bell, as tap out signal – each toll hitting home. The Air Evac Helicopter performed the symbolic fly and the inspirational words by First United Methodist Church Meridian Pastor Daniel Hawkins and First Baptist Church Clifton Pastor Dr. Jerry Smith added to the solemn and touching tribute.

In between each segment of the program, the audience’s silence in honor of those fallen law enforcement officers, firefighters, EMS and EMTs, and civilian victims spoke volumes.

“We are so fortunate to have among our friends and families those who fear not the cost, but cherish the calling,” Pool said “And we say to you and them today, Thank you. We will not forget. We don’t mourn these lives; we celebrate their victory.”

This celebration with free hot dogs – cooked by Dave Hodges and Don Hatley - after the ceremony, and drinks provided by the Bosque County Democratic and Republican Clubs gave those present the chance to visit with friends and family after the solemn memorial moments and to celebrate the lives of our every day heroes.

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