For those who attended the Tuesday evening ceremony honoring the victims and First Responders of 9/11, it was hard to believe that seventeen years have now passed since world attention was riveted on images of the World Trade Towers falling. That day is etched in the hearts and minds of Americans. But time marches on. Most of our Virgin Valley High School students have been born since that day in 2001. This fact alone underlines the reason that communities hold such annual events to remember the losses, the heroism of so many, and the historic impact of the 9/11 attack on our Nation. We are compelled to retell that story so it will never be forgotten.
The Exchange Club of Mesquite hosted the 9/11 Remembrance Ceremony on the steps of
City Hall. Mesquite Showgirls, dressed in patriotic costumes, greeted guests as they arrived. The attending crowd was light, due in part to an extended City Council meeting that overlapped the ceremony and prevented Councilman Geno Withelder from giving his scheduled address. Applause was loud and strong when master of ceremonies Paul Benedict introduced members of the Mesquite Police and Fire and Rescue Departments, indicating the high regard in which our community holds its local First Responders.
A line of emergency vehicles and police cars parked at the City Hall curb sounded their sirens at 6:30pm, signaling the call to serve. The prolonged wail was a reminder of the call to action for First Responders who commit themselves to the safety and service of others. When quiet returned, Melissa Rebman sang the Battle Hymn of the Republic and National Anthem. Bagpiper Dennis Hangey played “Amazing Grace” when Fire Chief Jason Andrus and Police Lieutenant Rob Stepp affixed a wreath in honor of the fallen.
Lt. Stepp then told a poignant story of his 9/11 experiences. He and Mesquite Police Chief Troy Tanner were driving to Las Vegas for their police academy training when they received a call
telling them to tune into a news station to hear about unfolding events in New York. As they
went to their academy classes that day, the role of the police officer in time of emergency was
laid out in stark reality. That day reinforced the lesson that it was their duty to run to danger, to help, to serve.
Chief Andrus, in paying respect to all who bravely serve, spoke about the heroic actions of citizens aboard United Flight 93. He pointed out that the passengers chose to take action as terrorists flew the hijacked plane toward certain destruction. The heroes were brothers, sisters, fathers, sons, mothers, daughters, husbands and wives. All were willing to sacrifice
their own lives to thwart the terrorists’ plans. Politics didn’t matter, personal differences dissolved when the Nation was in peril.
Rather than designating 9/11 a holiday, Congress has instituted it as a National Day of Service and Remembrance. It is a time to honor heroes and consider the qualities that make a hero: concern for others, consideration of the viewpoint of others, being confident, being of strong morals, being optimistic, persistent, and willing to endure a threat and take action in the face of fear. Those who step up to help others may be born with many of those traits, but the skills of service are also learned through training and education.
Benedict, an Air Force veteran, reminded the crowd of the service and sacrifice of our military
as he called for the Mesquite Honor Guard to lower the flag to half-staff and the playing of Taps by bugler Ron Bird.
As the 9/11 Remembrance closed, Police and Fire personnel stayed to greet community members. The Exchange Club was available to provide information about 1000 Flags Over Mesquite, an inspirational raising of 1000 American Flags at the sports field adjacent to the Mesquite Recreation Center. That event will be held November 4-11 in conjunction with Veterans’ Day.