Resilience and Unity

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 12, 2002

Despite boiling conditions, several hundred people gathered at the Courthouse Square in Andalusia for a remembrance of the terrorist attacks which shook the nation.

And despite the heat, the overall themes of resilience and unity prevailed on a day highlighted by remarks from Andalusia Councilman Harry Hinson, Police Chief Wilbur Williams Jr., Speaker Seth Hammett and Bob Randall of St. Mary Episcopal Church.

The crowd was also led in the singing of "God Bless America" by First Baptist Church

Music Minister Don Lingle.

During Hinson's remarks,

the councilman, speaking on behalf of Mayor Earl Johnson, who was out of town on city business, spoke about the impact the events of last Sept. 11 had on the nation.

"September 11, 2001 will forever be marked in American history as a day of great tragedy, not only for the thousands that lost their lives in those unimaginable acts of terror, but also because of the impact on all Americans and the changes in our lifestyle," said Hinson. "We are only one year removed from the tragedy but our previous held feelings of isolation from the evil world of terrorism seems a distant memory. It is a certainty that we have not witnessed the last of these terrorist attacks and it is a certainty that we must deal

with (acts of future terrorism) as long as hatred and intolerance and religious fanaticism exist anywhere in the world."

Hinson added the events of Sept. 11 should hold at least equal if not greater significance to events such as the Dec. 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.

Williams, during his remarks, echoed Hinson's sentiments that the events of Sept. 11 will be – and should be – remembered vividly by all Americans.

"It seems almost impossible that it has been one year since our country suffered the worst attack on its home soil ever, and over 2,000 of our innocent citizens' lives were taken in the name of a perverted religion," said Williams. "Included in that number were many firefighters, rescue personnel and law enforcement officers. Since September 11, 2001, the attitudes toward us who have chosen to provide emergency service to others have changed dramatically. The news outlets and many (citizens) have labeled those of us that chose to engage in this profession as heroes. Most of us are most uncomfortable with that label. We live with life and death on a daily basis and one cannot help but feel tremendous emotion for those emergency workers and their families that were asked to render the ultimate price 365 days ago today."

Williams said law officials know from their first day of the job what is expected of them

and that any of them could expect to at some time "pay the ultimate sacrifice," which is their life.

"(The expectations from the public) do not make (their jobs) any easier on us or our families, but we accept that fact and must live with that daily," said Williams. "My definition of a hero is someone who does something above and beyond what is reasonably expected of him or her. We saw hundreds and thousands of our citizens running away from those two buildings (New York City's Twin Towers of the World Trade Center) that morning, yet we saw the firemen and rescue workers and policemen running toward those buildings, but that was their job. That is what they were paid to do and that was what was expected of them.

"There are six words that exemplify the totality of the circumstance and the sacrifice that was made one year ago today and that is all gave some and some gave all," Williams added.

Williams also emphasized in his remarks that, while Americans may have been divided as far as their beliefs and many other factors before the attacks of Sept. 11, the events of that day ultimately led to a more unified nation.

Hammett also spoke of Sept. 11 also as a day "which will live in infamy," much like the Pearl Harbor attacks.

"The events of September 11, 2001 will be noted by historians as an unprovoked attack, this time by fanatics bent on destroying our American way of life," said Hammett. "It is our belief today that the murderers who attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon have only served to awaken a sleeping giant. We pause today to mourn the loss of thousands of innocent lives and to consider how the lives of many others have been changed forever."

"On that fateful day, wives became widows, husbands became widowers and children became orphans, as a horrified nation watched it happen on television," added Hammett.

"Images of the collapse of the World Trade Center and the gaping hole left in the side of the Pentagon are permanently etched memories of every American who witnessed these tragedies."

Hammett referred to the attacks as "some of the most hideous acts of terrorism in history."

"While we remember those innocent victims who perished one year ago today, we must also remember the many acts of heroism that occurred on that terrible day, in particular the men and women on the New York City fire and police departments for preventing the possibility of a substantially higher death toll by their rescue efforts," said Hammett who referred to the nation as "bloodied but unbowed."

Randall said despite the adversity of that tragic day of terrorism, there were also many inspirational stories to emerge from the rubble of the attacks.

"There were many images of tragedy, of loss, of lives being torn apart by the evil actions of a few," said Randall. "But at the same time that we saw people fleeing from the face of evil, we saw other people walk straight into the face of evil and did what they knew they had to and what they were called to do. In the year that has passed, we have seen many other images of healing and of hope.

"At the same time that I have seen many families on TV and in magazines discuss the losses they felt, at the same time I've seen communities that have surrounded them with love, and help them heal through this and bring hope to places that were hopeless. The most important thing that people of God can do when we are faced with evil is to call upon God to be there and to be present with us to bring healing and to bring hope, and to bring justice and peace," said Hammett.

Hinson finished the event's remarks, with his voice cracking, as he discussed the impact of war on the nation.

"War is terrible, but wars have to be fought sometimes," said Hinson. "We have made many mistakes in the past, waiting too late. We were not prepared for September 11 and we let our guard down and we must realize that we have to profit from past mistakes. War is terrible, but it is better to fight on someone else's soil than to fight on ours. We learned that at Pearl Harbor and we learned that on September 11."