David Butler, a member of the Martinez Fire Department, plays Amazing Grace on the bagpipes during Wesley United Methodist Church's Remembering Our Sorrow, Proclaiming Our Hope service honoring Sept. 11 victims.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
A lone bagpipe player blew his heart into Amazing Grace to a solemn crowd at Wesley United Methodist Church on Wednesday evening.
As David Butler, the Martinez Fire Department's bagpiper, marched through the sea of people and the sound of bagpipes faded into the lobby, an Evans High School band member trumpeted Taps, bringing emotions to a head at the community service.
The service, Remembering Our Sorrow, Proclaiming Our Hope, paid homage to those lost in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States. The Rev. Glenn Ethridge, of Wesley United , thought he had overcome his grief and sorrow of that day until the anniversary arrived, which proved the pain was still raw and fresh, he said.
Every seat in the sanctuary was filled, people lined walls and stood in the lobby to participate in the hopeful service. More than 800 people squeezed into the 500-person capacity church.
A large number of uniformed personnel - fire, police, EMS, forestry service and military - were scattered among the crowd of families, young and old, wearing anything from shorts and ball caps to their best Sunday dress.
When a combined color guard presented the colors, the only sound was the color guard commander's voice. The sanctuary was filled with a sea of hands over hearts or salutes as our national anthem resounded off the vaulted ceilings.
The service was to share the common sorrow felt by all present and celebrate the uncommon heroism of the country's new heroes, Ethridge said.
As people ran out of the burning buildings the day of the attacks, brave firefighters, police and EMS workers selflessly charged in, which Ethridge maintains is against every human survival instinct.
Brandy Vaughan (left) and Kaitlyn Lewis share a program as they sing the National Anthen during a Sept. 11 memorial service at Wesley United Methodist Church.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
"It is noble," Ethridge said. "But it is true."
Candles were lit and bells tolled for those with local ties who were killed including Julane Davidson, who died in New York City, and Maj. Stephen Long, who died rescuing people from the Pentagon.
Sean Suggs and Evan Slagle put together a moving slide show of images of Ground Zero, those working there and signs of support and hope from around the country to the soulful theme of Ray Charles's America the Beautiful and Lee Greenwood's God Bless the USA. The show received a standing ovation and overwhelming applause before it's conclusion.
That was the first emergence of hope in the ceremony.
The Rev. Cynthia Taylor, of Church of the Holy Comforter, shared her inspiring story of serving at St. Paul's Chapel at Ground Zero.
"You were there," she said to all present. "You were there at Ground Zero, the Pentagon and Pennsylvania. This is a day of mourning because of what happened a year ago today. But we took care of each other and people we did not even know."
St. Paul's was covered from floor to ceiling with cards, letters and drawings of support and thanks, which brought hope and solace to the many rescue workers who rested there during the rescue, recovery and clean-up efforts, she said.
Angelic childlike voices of the Columbia County Elementary Schools Chorus rose with the message "Let There Be Peace on Earth and let it start with me."
Doug Cooper of the Martinez Fire Department lights a candle in memory of Columbia County residents who lost their lives in the Sept, 11 attacks.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
The sorrow was slowly being replaced with with words of hope, peace and love, which were mentioned often by Ethridge in his uplifting and encouraging message.
"The events of September 11 have indeed shaken us all, but they will not destroy us," he said.
The fire department's color guard, some of who so honorably presented and retired the colors, will be traveling to Washington, D.C., to participate in the Procession of Honor prior to the National Fallen Firefighter Foundation Memorial Service on Oct. 6, which will honor all firefighters killed in the line of duty in the past year.
The 13-member honor guard, along with others from around the country, will lead a procession of those fallen firefighters' family and departments to the MCI Center, where this year's foundation memorial event will take place.
"It will be good for them," said Martinez Fire Department Chief Doug Cooper. "It will be good for the community and for them to be recognized up there."
County commissioner Jim Whitehead asked for donations at the service to help send the guard to Washington. Almost $1,200 of the $4,000 needed was donated to firefighters after the event.
Donations will be accepted at any department fire station or by calling headquarters at (706) 863-7745.
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