Under a bright sunny sky, similar to the one on Sept. 11, 2001, approximately 200 people gathered Saturday for the 20th anniversary memorial ceremony of 9/11: We Will Never Forget.
Hosted by Forest City Fire Rescue, it was the 20th memorial ceremony. Previously the ceremonies were held at the Forest City fire station but this year, the Patriot's Day event was moved to the Pavilion on Park Square (POPS) where more people could gather.
The ceremony was held to reflect on the events of the day and all those who lost their lives or were injured when terrorists attacked America in New York, Washington, DC and Shanksville, Pa. Nearly 3,000 died and more than 6,000 were injured in the worst terrorist attack on American soil.
Before the ceremony began people mingled in the Park, shared their personal remembrances of the day and said they were forever grateful to those who lost their lives that day in efforts to defend freedoms.
Evelyn Lynn of Spindale was in Florida 20 years ago. She was teaching school and looking for yearbook photos when the news was heard across the nation...She was in disbelief.
Joanne Eaker of Forest City was at home that tragic day watching a morning news program.
Also in Florida, Julie Napolitan, like many thought there was an implosion at the World Trade Center when the first plane hit the tower.
Fire Chief Ferrell Hamrick began the ceremony asking the crowd to stand for the posting of the colors by the Rutherford County Firefighter Honor Guard followed by the National Anthem sung by Andy Cilone of Forest City.
"It's a new beginning...to get us back to where we were on 9/11," Hamrick began.
He recognized all firefighters attending from across the county, emergency responders, veterans and Spartanburg Regional's Flight Crew.
"We are thankful for all of you," he said.
Mayor Steve Holland recalled he was at his office with Duke Energy on 9/11 when he heard the news.
"I saw things on the faces of people I'd never seen before. It was disbelief. So much has changed since...but in time of need, you are our heroes," Holland said to all emergency workers.
Hamrick also recognized Forest City Police Chief Chris LeRoy who introduced Officer Jamie Hill who was shot during an incident a month ago in Forest City.
LeRoy again thanked the emergency workers and said without the response of each of them, the outcome could have been much different.
Hill thanked everyone for this support and prayers.
Air Force Col. Christy Haynes of Forest City was guest speaker and recalled how the events of the day unfolded in her office that day. She retired recently as an attorney serving in the Air Force.
"Everything has changed...our world has drastically changed," she said, recalling how the Air Force and other branches of the military were prepared to "confront the evil."
The Air Force began sending planes to intercept any that could be in danger.
"Our homeland had been attacked," she said. "I will never forget the legal advice given to our soldiers being deployed after that."
Perhaps until that day, she said, she didn't realize the love and sacrifice of families preparing legal documents in the event a soldier may not return.
"We have to be prepared for the worst case scenario," she said.
Haynes said the past 20 years has been focused on the fight on terrorism and she thanked everyone who gave the ultimate sacrifice for freedom.
Colonel Haynes is the former Chief, Air Force Material Command Administrative and General Law Division, AFMC, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio.
She graduated from Rutherford County Schools, UNC-Charlotte with two bachelor degrees and then received her Doctor of JurisPrudence degree from the University of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Colonel Haynes was deployed in 2006 as the staff Judge Advocate for Al Dhafra Air Base.
As the concluding song was heard, "God Bless the USA," people mingled in the park reflecting on that day 20 years ago.
A parade of emergency vehicles later passed through Forest City.