By MATT CRANE
Gathered in the park adjacent to Fire Station No. 1 Tuesday, Starkville residents and first responders paid tribute to the heroes and victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
Sponsored by Volunteer Starkville and the Maroon Volunteer Center, the Sept. 11 National Day of Service and Remembrance Ceremony featured speeches by local service department heads and a proclamation by Mayor Parker Wiseman.
Starkville High School JROTC Cadet Stacy Young began the ceremony narrating the presentation of flags from the armed services, the city of Starkville, the state of Mississippi and the national flag by members of the SHS JROTC and Starkville Police Department Honor Guard.
After a rendition of the National Anthem by Mississippi State University student James Hemphill, MSU Assistant Dean of Students and Army National Guard Maj. Andrew Rendon discussed the communityâ€™s role in compassionately honoring the 2,975 victims of Sept. 11, 2001 and the efforts Starkville has taken to commemorate the sacrifice made that day.
â€śThis past week, the Starkville community and university volunteers paid tribute to these individuals by engaging in efforts intended to help,â€ť he said. â€śRegardless of whatever differences we may have as people, we are unified today by our human decency and our universal compassions for the well-being of others.â€ť
Retired United States Air Force Col. Hal Bullock led the crowd in a moment of silence and reflected on the attacks.
â€śI was supposed to be in the Pentagon that morning, but due to a quirk of fate and last minute decision, I was not there,â€ť he said. â€śMany friends and associates were not as fortunate.â€ť
Bullock said the terrible events of that day allowed him to see the evil present in the world, but he retained hope because of Americaâ€™s response.
â€śWe saw that day that our enemy was vicious and unforgiving,â€ť he said. â€śIâ€™m proud of the way that contrasts with the United States â€” that we forgive quickly, that we stand up for something we believe in and that we reach out to others who are less fortunate than we are.â€ť
Following Bullockâ€™s speech, Wiseman thanked local and national first responders for their service and solidified Starkvilleâ€™s charge to continue volunteer efforts of service and remembrance with his proclamation.
â€śSept. 11, more so than any other American tragedy, serves as a reminder of the sacrifice that our first responders make every day they put on a uniform,â€ť he said. â€śAn unprecedented bonding of Americans arose from those in collective shock, unifying this country in an outpouring of national spirit, pride, selflessness, courage and service.â€ť
Starkville Fire Department Chief Roger Mann, county volunteer firefighter Austin Check, Starkville Police Department Chief David Lindley and Oktibbeha County Sheriff Steve Gladney all spoke to the memory of those fallen and the valiant effort of Starkvilleâ€™s local first responders.
Starkville resident Sarah Hammes said she was proud to support organizations like Volunteer Starkville that remain dedicated to paying tribute to the men and women serving from the local to national level.
â€śEven after all this time, itâ€™s still so important to have ceremonies like this to honor those who serve,â€ť she said. â€śThese are our community members who go out everyday and risk their lives, and I am so thankful for them.â€ť