“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” John 15:13
This scripture highlighted by Rep. Barry Moore and keynote speaker Pastor Leon Adams was the main message of the inaugural Patriot Day Ceremony held Friday, Sept. 11, at Johnny Henderson Park on Highway 167 sponsored by the Wiregrass Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution and the Coffee County Veterans.
The event also served as the kickoff for the “America 250” program, a six-year series of events leading up to the 250th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, also sponsored by the Wiregrass Chapter of SAR.
In the days leading up to the ceremony, 2,977 flags were placed on the grass at the front of the park, one flag for every victim of 911, by Boy Scout Troop 105 and Girl Scout Troop SU 923.
The opening invocation was given by Elder Rodrick Caldwell followed by the presentation of the colors by the Alabama Sons of the American Revolution Color Guard. Chuck Arney played “God Bless America” on the bagpipes then City Council President Perry Vickers read the City of Enterprise proclamation in place of Mayor William “Bill” Cooper who was unable to attend due to sickness.
David Jones, state president of the Sons of the American Revolution, remembered the day 19 years ago when the country was under attack.
“Nineteen years ago America was on the receiving end of a world tragedy. Thousands of innocent American lives were lost during three coordinated attacks on our great nation. Today we have all but annihilated the enemy.
“Americans will always unite. When outsiders attack us, we will always retaliate and we will always defeat the enemy,” Jones said. “We have traditionally referred to the term ‘patriot’ to the men and women who serve in the armed forces of this great nation. While they are patriots, we now recognize the patriots who the citizens see on a daily basis. They are the ones who rushed to the scene of the attack in New York City, Washington DC and in Pennsylvania. They are our first responders. They of all people are patriots.
“You see these same patriots alongside newly recognized patriots in our medical personnel fighting everyday to save the lives of our fellow man in our hospitals and clinics throughout the nation during this horrible pandemic that has swept the world. Once again our enemy leashed this upon us. These patriots take an oath to serve and protect, the same as our patriot ancestors did some 244 years ago when they swore to themselves an oath to protect an ideal of a free nation,” Jones said.
“As we approach the 250th birthday of this great nation, we are launching our America 250 campaign. I challenge every civic organization, every patriotic organization to join the Sons of the American Revolution in the planning of this celebration of our country’s 250th birthday in the year 2026. My question to you today is, are you ready to step up to the challenge?”
Travis Parker of Enterprise will be serving as the Alabama state chairman of the America 250 committee.
Moore reminded those attending we need to remember to “back our blue. Nineteen years ago today we had 60 men in blue and 343 firefighters that ran into those two towers in New York City to save the lives of people. You know we often refer to them as heroes. The men and women that responded and that ran into those buildings were heroes before that day. They’re heroes now and they’re here amongst us and they are always running to danger and come to our aid when we need them.
“We’re still fighting that war into this day. I have a son-in-law in Iraq with the 82nd Airborne fighting that war on terror, but it’s come onto our own soil in a lot of ways and I think we are in a spiritual battle for the future of our country,” Moore said.
“We need to be mindful of the men and women that serve whether it be in politics, as first responders, in the military, whatever the case may be in our communities everyday and our churches. We need to be praying for this nation.”
Adams served as a crisis counselor and law enforcement chaplain for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey for two months following 911. He said when he was called to speak at the Patriot Day Ceremony, it was going to be the hardest thing he had done in a long time.
“I spent a lot of time begging God, what do I say? How do you make it real for folks in front of you that have never experienced it? How do you give them something to take home to think about that reminds them of the horrendous day we call 911?”
Friends have asked him why he went to one of the sites of the 911 attacks. He said, “Well, Psalm 147:3 kind of sums it up. The psalmist says, ‘He that is God heals the brokenhearted and binds their wounds.’ You know most of the time he uses human hands to bind the wounds and heal the hearts. I was honored that he gave me the opportunity to go.”
After he arrived in New York City he was taken to a crash house operated by the Port Authority. “The things that I wish I could share with you are faces and words. I stood and looked at a poster with 37 pictures on it. I’m looking and this guy comes up and says, ‘Do you know any of those?’ I said, no sir, I don’t. I’m just a chaplain from out of town that has come to let God do what he will with me while I’m here.” He said he knew 36 of them. Big tears started running down this guy’s face as he told me 36 stories about 36 faces.
Adams and his partner wound up going to Kennedy Airport because no one had been there for two weeks to minister to the workers there. When they arrived, a young lady in uniform came up to them and asked if they were chaplains.
She said, “Boy am I glad you’re here. My partner, if she doesn’t get help today, she won’t live through the night.”
“I said, ‘What can we do?’” She told us they would find a place for us to counsel her and she would bring her to us.
“My partner went in a closet, literally a broom closet they cleaned out, and turned the light on and that became his counseling office. He was in there with her almost two hours. To my knowledge, she is still alive today because she was reminded in the midst of all this horror, that God still loves her,” Adams said.
“The important thing was we were in a spiritual battle, a battle for the soul of our nation and I want to tell you that today 19 years later we’re deeper into that battle than we were then.”
Adams met a nanny who told him what she learned on 911. The home where she worked was right across from the towers. She was looking at the first tower burn when the second tower was hit. She panicked, grabbed the baby and ran out the door, down the stairs and up the street away from the twin towers. She got about three blocks up the street when she realized she didn’t have her shoes on, didn’t have a coat, didn’t have clothes for the baby and didn’t have a bottle for the baby. She said she saw folks all around her running in the same direction she was running. Alll their faces looked like hers must have looked: sheer terror. And she said then she looked in the street and saw true courage. The street was full of first responders and their faces looked like all the other faces. They were scared, too. But while everyone else ran from it, they ran to it.
“When things get tight, we need someone who is bigger than we are. We need somebody who can do things we can’t do,” Adams said. “I couldn’t heal John’s heart or Joe’s heart. I couldn’t tell them that things will never be the same again but I can tell him about a guy who loved them, who cared about them, who knew where they were on 911 and who knew where they were the day I talked with them.
“I was able to listen to a mother who said if they can’t find all of my son, I pray they don’t find any of my son. Her son’s name was John Fody. John’s wife was at the other end of that platform at the towers and I listened to her as she said if I can just find one joint of his finger, I’ll be blessed. I got back to the morgue that night and mentioned that to Joe and Joe said we’ve already found him. We know who he is by his gear. It’s mostly dust chaplain and we can’t tell them until we get the DNA back.
“I’ve watched guys deal with horrible death every day every night for two months, two months when I was there 19 years ago today and I was reminded of the real value in life, the value we can’t bring to them.
“There are folks standing all around you who have devoted their lives to try and be sure that your life is an OK life. They’ll die for you but I’d love to have time to tell you about the one who died for you so that you might live not just a little while longer here, but for eternity. He’s the one I was able to share with those folks, that caused them to want to hug necks and cry on our shoulders and say, ‘I wish you didn’t have to go home.’ We came home and God stayed.
“Today we need to be reminded what the psalmist said: Psalm 33:12, ‘Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people who he has chosen for his inheritance.’”
A salute volley in honor of those who perished was conducted by Clanton’s Battery to end the ceremony.