By Abbey Snow

Mesquite Community Gathers for 9/11 Ceremony

9/11 Ceremony “A Day To Remember”

About 200 people gathered in front of City Hall for the 9/11 memorial service sponsored by The Exchange Club of Mesquite. Many participated in a youth focused ceremony creating an unforgettable event.

“The weather was perfect, all were very complimentary, some with tears in their eyes as they spoke with me afterwards.” The Exchange Club of Mesquite President, Paul Benedict said

The 2021 9/11 Ceremony in front of City Hall. (Photo credit Barbara Benedict)

Last year due to COVID restrictions, the Exchange Club was unable to hold a 9/11 memorial event. However, Mesquite Fire and Rescue suspended an American Flag over Mesquite Blvd  on September 11, 2020

Mesquite Fire and Rescue suspended an American Flag over Mesquite Blvd  on September 11, 2020 ( submitted photo by Paul Benedict)


Also, on Sept 11, 2020,  the Mesquite Police Department officers wrote on their patrol vehicles to remind all of the loss our nation sustained on 9/11/2001. On Sept 11,2020, Mesquite Police Department decorated their vehicles (Photos obtained from Mesquite Police Department Facebook site)


Before the ceremony, sirens sounded at 6:25, while the crew of Mercy Air made up of First Responders Pilot Jon Fretz, Medic Sean Price and Nurse Adam Garrard performed a flyover to show their support. Another representative of Mercy Air, Tanya Paynter, was in the audience.

Benedict then addressed the audience at the podium.

“On behalf of the Exchange Club of Mesquite, thank you for joining with us this evening.”Benedict said. “My name is Paul Benedict. The sirens you heard a few minutes ago were a call to service. The members of our Police Department, our Fire and Rescue Department, our Community Emergency Response Team, our Citizens Volunteer Patrol, and Mercy Air willingly answer that call without reservation, because that’s what they have committed themselves to do. While the sound of the sirens may have faded away, never let your memories of September 11, 2001 fade away.”

Mayor Allan Litman then welcomed the audience and talked about how important it is to teach students in school about the events that occurred on Sept 11th.  

Benedict spoke again; “Please rise and remain standing, and as the Chimes of Remembrance mark 20 years, we invite children from our Police and Fire and Rescue families to present the American Flag,”  

In the background Benedict rang a bell slowly 20 times. With each chime, a child carried a Flag into the rotunda, then stood to face the audience. All 20 Flags formed a neatly-spaced semicircle around the steps leading up to the podium.

The Invocation was delivered by Pastor Billy Montgomery from the First Baptist Church of Mesquite, followed by the National Anthem led by members of the Mesquite United Methodist Church Choir and joined by the entire audience.

The Mesquite Fire and Rescue Honor Guard lowered the American Flag to half-staff as  Ron Bird performed ‘Taps’ on the bagpipes. 

“To mark this 20th Anniversary of 9/11 and to thank them for their participation in this ceremony, I am proud to present each of these young people a limited edition Challenge Coin on behalf of the Exchange Club of Mesquite,” Benedict said. 

After Benedict presented each child with a Challenge Coin, they returned their flags and took their seats.

“Chief Jayson Andrus and Captain Quinn Averett, as Bagpiper Dennis Hangey marks this solemn occasion with the strains of “Amazing Grace”, please offer your tribute to those who no longer answer the call,” Benedict said.

Chief Andrus & Captain Averett then placed a beautiful memorial wreath while Amazing Grace was played by Hangey on bagpipes.

Dennis Hangey plays the Bagpipes. (Photo credit Barbara Benedict)

“Please welcome Lieutenant Christopher Rowley and a guest from his Department, followed by Chief Jayson Andrus and a guest from his Department,” Benedict said.

Rowley spoke about the importance of remembering 9/11 and how none of the first responders that day thought about being heroes, they simply did their jobs. He introduced Myia Alejos, who is the daughter of a policeman, and presented her with a Challenge Coin. Alejos told the audience how proud she was of her dad and all the people he helps.  

Myia Alejos speaks before the audience (Photo credit Barbara Benedict)

Chief Andrus then emphasized the importance of teaching our children what happened 20  years ago. He also said Mesquite Fire & Rescue and Mesquite Police are always ready to serve the community. Andrus then introduced Kaycee Browning, who is the daughter of a firefighter, and presented her with a Challenge Coin. Browning talked about sometimes having to postpone celebrations because of her father’s duties.

Paul Benedict approached the podium again to close the ceremony with a speech.

“I remember,” Benedict said. “For older Americans, 9/11 remains a vivid memory. Today, 20 years later, most Americans 8 or older at the time could remember exactly where they were when they heard the news. For many young people, though, 9/11 is a subject learned secondhand. Nearly one-fifth of the country is too young to remember the day that changed everything.

Among the First Responders who died on September 11, 2001, an estimated 800 children lost their father, and 100 or so babies were born after their fathers died that day. They are the final gifts their fathers left behind. How have their lives been affected? Is 9/11 just a piece of history to them? Or do they remember too?

Approximately 225 first responders are killed in the line of duty each year. An organization called First Responders Children’s Foundation was founded in 2002 to help the families of first responders across the country with crucial assistance when disaster strikes.

The Foundation has provided millions of dollars in scholarships to hundreds of children who have lost a parent in the line of duty, and works with departments, businesses, and local communities to reach children in need of assistance across the country.”“But support and financial help aren’t enough. The love and respect for a fallen parent kindles a passion in those left behind. And our young people are responding to that passion.

The children of FDNY firefighters and NYPD officers who perished on 9/11 are blossoming into a new generation of the Bravest and the Finest.

Dozens and dozens of daughters and sons have honored the legacy of their fathers by following in their footsteps. In 2019, of the 301 new trainees with the New York City Fire Department, 21 are children of men whose deaths stem from the attacks. The new first responders all say they joined the force to pay respect to their fallen fathers. They remember.

And all too many of those first responders who spent days and weeks sorting through the horrible rubble have contracted a variety of severe illnesses – the death toll continues to rise.The families they leave behind remember.

And when you pause to remember the morning 20 years ago when we were attacked, look over your shoulder and at the same time look forward and ask yourselves: What can we do now?

The act of remembering something like 9/11 involves a delicate balance. To the parents and educators here with us this evening, how do you talk to young people of this new generation who weren’t even alive on 9/11?

That hardly means they haven’t been paying attention; they “remember” too, even if they weren’t around, because you are sharing your memory with the children in your charge. Don’t stop spending time with them, talking to them, and listening to what history is teaching them. Memory becomes a shared history and history becomes a shared memory.

Hold that shared history, that shared memory, close to your hearts. And together, always remember.

I would like to offer a special thank you to Jennifer Elliott from the First Baptist Church for making it possible for you to hear us this evening, Pastor Billy Montgomery, the United Methodist Church Choir, Bugler Ron Bird, Bagpiper Dennis Hangey, Mayor Allan Litman, members of the Exchange Club, Ace Hardware, Mercy Air, the staff of the City of Mesquite, and especially our heroes, the members of our Fire and Police Departments. They are here because of you, and they are here for you,” Benedict said.

After Benedict thanked those who participated, he paused for a while as the audience gave a long standing ovation.   

“Please feel free to come up and thank them for all they do to protect us,” Benedict said.  “On behalf of the Exchange Club of Mesquite, I look forward to seeing you at the 15th Annual 1000 Flags Over Mesquite from November 7th through November 14th. Thank you for joining us this evening.”

The ceremony concluded for the evening.

The Exchange Club of Mesquite stated on their Facebook site, “Exchange Club was especially proud to bring the Remember 9/11 to the Mesquite community; Thanks to everyone who attended on this the 20th anniversary of that horrible day in American history.”

The Mesquite Police Department stated on their Facebook site, “The Exchange Club of Mesquite organized tonight’s incredible 9/11 remembrance ceremony in front of City Hall. It was a solemn, humbling, and meaningful event that reminded us of how important it is to never forget what happened that day 20 years ago. Thank you for inviting us to participate once again this year.”

To read the Mesquite Police Departments message and view photos click on the link

The following photos were obtained from Mesquite Police Department Facebook site:(Photos courtesy of Mesquite Police Department Facebook site)


Benedict gives special thanks to members of Mesquite Fire and Rescue for helping set up and take down the chairs that were rented for our first responders.


The Challenge Coins that were given to each youth participant were created by the Colonial Flag Foundation in Sandy, UT specifically for this 20th Anniversary.