Winchester remembers 9/11

Published 10:25 am Thursday, September 14, 2023

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It has been said that there are only a handful of events in a person’s life when they can recall where they were, who they were with, and what they were doing.

For individuals of different generations, Sept. 11, 2001, was undoubtedly one of those days.

Current Winchester Mayor JoEllen Reed was a first-grade teacher at the time.

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“We had the TV on watching something on Kentucky Educational Television, and suddenly everything broke through and started showing the plane hitting the towers,” Reed said. “I immediately rushed to the TV [and] turned it off so the children would not have that memory in their minds. Our entire staff was beside ourselves. We were hurt. We didn’t know the enormity of what was going on.”

On Monday, exactly twenty-two years after the deadliest terrorist attacks in United States history left 2,977 individuals dead – Winchester remembered victims, honored those who sacrificed, and prayed for those who continue the fight against terrorism.

At 8:30 a.m., just past the entrance where individuals would enter George Rogers Clark High School – adjacent to the parking lot – GRC’s award-winning JROTC program recognized the occasion during their Patriot Day ceremony.

Patriot Day was first formally recognized in 2002, designating the anniversary of 9/11 as a day of service and remembrance.

A blue, red, and white American flag was placed on the grass for each victim of the tragedy, forming “9 – 11”.

GRC senior and JROTC public affairs officer Allie Endricks was present.

Like all others in the JROTC Program, Endricks was not even born when the events of that day took place.

However, she spoke of her understanding of the day’s events.

“It still has a deep meaning to us all because we know how much it affected the world, especially the United States,” Endricks said. “It means a lot that we could help put this on for the community and show the community and Kentucky and the world that Winchester and GRC care so much about what happened that day.”

As a part of the ceremony, following an introduction, a moment of silence was shared at 8:46 a.m. – marking the time when the first airplane, American Airlines Flight 11, hit the north tower of the World Trade Center.

At 9:03 a.m., the south tower of the World Trade Center would be hit by United Airlines Flight 175.

“Taps” – a bugle call traditionally played during patriotic memorial ceremonies and military funerals – was also performed.

GRC Principal High School Principal Luke Toy spoke at the event.

“I have to give a huge shout-out to our JROTC program…they set everything up this morning on top of helping us with traffic,” Toy said.

Toy also mentioned that – while people may be justified in anger regarding Sept. 11 – he hoped individuals would use it as an opportunity to serve, as had the JROTC program.

“Instead of harboring animosity we call upon each other to honor this day through acts of kindness by volunteering to serve others and to get involved in ways to build stronger communities,” Toy said.

Later, a different service occurred at St. Joseph Catholic Church on S. Main St.

Blue Mass, celebrated annually to honor those employed in the public safety field, took place.

The public safety field comprises police, firefighters, correctional officers, 911 operators and EMS personnel.

In New York City, 343 members of the Fire Department of New York City (FDNY) were killed while sacrificing their lives to help others, as were 33 members of the New York Police Department (NYPD), 27 members of the Port Authority Police Department (PAPD), and eight EMS workers.

Since then, many have died or battled disease due to respiratory illness and other adverse health effects associated with cleanup efforts.

After Chuck Bast, who helped put together the event, welcomed those in attendance, representatives of the Winchester Fire Department, Clark County Fire Department, Winchester Police Department, and United States Army participated in the parade of helmets.

Each representative placed a helmet of their respective department or unit on a table near the pulpit, showcasing a picture of Father Mychal Judge.

Judge, a Franciscan friar and Catholic priest, was Chaplain to the New York City Fire Department on 9/11 and became the first certified fatality after being killed by falling debris.

Various biblical messages were read during the ceremony – including Colossians 3:12-15, Psalm 103, and Luke 6:27-38.

Music was also played, and Father Arockiadoss Arokiasamy delivered the homily, sometimes called a sermon.

In speaking, he thanked first responders for preventing a fire that once occurred in his home.

He also prayed for divine protection.

“We ask God for this protection of you brave men and women who devote your lives protecting our community,” Arokiasamy said. “Set down your blessings on these, your servants, who so earnestly devote themselves.”

The day has special meaning for Lt. Eric Hunter of the Clark County Fire Department and his son, Riley Hunter, an armor officer in the first infantry division of the U.S. Army.

“It’s kind of awkward for us to come to these things, but at the same time, we feel like it’s important,” said Lt. Hunter. “Those guys [on Sept. 11] did what firefighters do. They went in. They did their job. They accepted the risk. People were saved that day, and people were lost that day.”

“Especially growing up in a firefighter house, [Blue Mass] definitely means a lot,” said Riley Hunter. “It’s definitely important to remind ourselves why we do the professions that we chose to do and to remember those that didn’t make it out.”

Throughout the day, others also took time to recognize Sept. 11.

At Winchester Country Club, preparing for the 2023 Winchester-Clark County Chamber of Commerce Golf Scramble, long-time PGA professional Bobby Baldwin remembered those who passed and honored those who continue serving before sending out attendees for the day’s games.

Undoubtedly, others throughout the community recognized Sept. 11 in their own way.

It’s something that Reed, born and raised in Winchester, finds pride in from the community, while one of the worst days in U.S. history is hoped never to be repeated.

“It shows me how resilient the community of Winchester and Clark County is,” she said. “We do care. We do remember.”