KATHLEEN -- Veterans High School’s red, white and blue themed auditorium was the setting Sunday for a concert to remember Sept. 11 terror attacks and to hear from local representatives of the law enforcement, military and firefighting communities.
“It’s a way for us to remember those who were lost that day and to remember those who have kept us safe since that day,” said Tom Brown, director of bands at Veterans High. “Because of their continuing efforts, we are able to have concerts like this.”
The event featured the Veterans wind symphony, directed by Brown, and the Valdosta State University Wind Ensemble directed by Joe Brashier.
Brown said the idea for the memorial concert began in June when Brashier called and asked if he’d be interested.
“We both agreed doing the concert at Veterans High School would be very appropriate,” Brown said. “It wasn’t our intent to focus only on the tragedy, but to try to remember the people who showed America at her best. The police and firefighters in New York inspired all of us with their selfless commitment to helping their fellow New Yorkers through a remarkably difficult time. “
In comments representing law enforcement, Capt. Beth Shafer of the Houston County Sheriff’s Office spoke of the duty of first responders. She also gave honors to family friend and firefighter Ray Meisenhimer, who lost his life at the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers that day.
“There were many people who ran in as others ran out,” Shafer said. “That’s what first responders do.”
Shafer said after learning of the terrorist attacks, she and other members of the sheriff’s office continued doing their duty and patrolling Houston County, going about their business that day as they have each day since.
Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Steve Atkins, the school’s aerospace science instructor, told of his days following the tragedy. He said the day after 9/11 he was part of an F-15 refueling mission over Atlanta and the day after that over Washington, D.C.
Flying over two of the nation’s busiest air traffic areas, Atkins said he knew they were not ordinary days when air traffic controllers gave him clearance for all altitudes and all air space, telling him, “It’s all yours”.
He said spending four hours flying over Washington and being able to see the damage done to the Pentagon gave him plenty of time to think and experience the eerie air silence the days after 9/11 produced.
Houston County Fire Chief/EMA Director Jimmy Williams spoke for firefighters. “Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friend,” Williams said, quoting a biblical passage from John 15.13. “People gave their lives for their friends that day.”
Williams went on to say what he believed terrorists intended to do on 9/11 was to break the spirit of America. He said they failed, and he invoked God’s continued blessings on America.
Doshia Scarborough, of Houston County, was one of those attending the memorial. She said she thought it was a wonderful event and that she was especially pleased it was held in a public school. It was stirring,” she said. “We needed something like this here.”
In his comments, Brown also expressed thanks to local school officials for their part, and he said their courage, in allowing the event.
As for his student musicians, Brown said though they might not have the same memories of the event as their parents, they were equally moved by participating in the memorial.
“Many of our students are a bit fuzzy on details,” he said. “But most are very aware of the significance of the day.”