A Patriot Day remembrance event was held this past Saturday on the square in Mexico to pay tribute to veterans, law enforcement, firefighters, along with first responders/EMTs.
The event began with a mini-parade that began at the First Christian Church and went along W. Jackson before ending at the Audrain County Courthouse.
The event, organized by Charles Fry, was then held at the Veterans Memorial Wall on the courthouse lawn.
Captain Ed Williams, a supervisor with the Audrain County Jail, gave a first-hand account of his experience near Ground Zero during the events of September 11, 2001.
He said he was eight stories below ground level when the first plane hit as he was working nearby in Jersey City, New Jersey at the time.
Captain Williams, who was in a city just across the river from where the towers were, could see the second plane hit the towers.
He eventually boarded a train that was re-routed. He said he saw the buildings collapse from inside his location.
He then sought out news coverage from area bars and restaurants when as he watching, he saw folks running by one of the locations he was at.
When trying to talk with one of the FBI agents he came in contact with to find out what was going on, all he was told is that “we’re under attack.”
About 7:30 p.m. that evening, he boarded a train and went to Penn Station. Captain Williams noted that when he arrived it was like being in the movie “I Am Legend.”
“Picture yourself walking through Time Square and you’re the only person walking down a city block,” he said.
In the days to follow, he was able to reach Ground Zero and he said he didn’t have the words to describe what he saw.
The smell of burning flesh was evident along with the scene of destruction.
“It’s something I don’t talk about often,…” Captain Williams said. “It was really horrific what I saw, what I went through, what I heard, what I smelled…”
He noted that bomb threats lasted for weeks after 9/11.
Captain Williams said a lot of his clients were in the World Trade Center and he was eventually laid off.
With no one hiring, he made the decision to return to Missouri, where he was from.
The remainder of the event included those in attendance joining together in the singing of “The Star Spangled Banner” and reciting of the “Pledge of Allegiance.”
Charles Fry opened the event by reading scripture from the Bible. He referenced the books of Micah and Isaiah.
Audrain County Emergency Management Director Steve Shaw said all were present not only to honor those who lost their lives tragically 15 years ago, but were also present to pay tribute to those serving locally as well as those serving in the military.
He said those who serve do an incredible job of keeping citizens safe but can’t do it alone.
“We must all embrace our individual responsibility to be prepared and support these services as they go about their daily duties,” he said. “In doing so, we contribute not only to the safety and security of our community but our nation as well.”
Phil Iman, the chairman for the Community Organizers Active in Disaster (COAD), also spoke at the event.
He said he was humbled for the opportunity to publicly thank those who serve the community by putting themselves in harm’s way.
He told those in attendance about the faith-based group COAD, that includes volunteers who step in to help after local responders are at the scene of a disaster to help those affected by the situation.
He noted the Audrain Disaster Recovery Organization, which includes faith-based groups.
Iman said there are opportunities for volunteers, churches, and service organizations to help.
John Matthews, the American Red Cross Coordinator for Disaster Relief, also spoke on behalf of the “nongovernmental” American Red Cross.
Matthews said he had two opportunities to serve in New York City after 9/11.
He expressed appreciation for those who served along with the volunteers.
Fry talked about the book “World Trade Center” and recommended it to those in attendance.
Major Brice Mesko, assistant chief of Mexico Public Safety, also gave a few remarks.
He publicly introduced members of Mexico Public Safety.
He talked about the event of 9/11 and reflected on the aftermath of the event.
“We did not collapse, we did not lose faith, we worked together, we figured out what went wrong, and we got better,” he noted. “And here we are 15 years later. And we may have problems but we are still one of the strongest economies in the world and we’re still hanging on to all of our freedoms.”
Mesko noted that Fry has been holding similar events for about seven years and led the audience in applauding his efforts.
Audrain County Sheriff Stuart Miller thanked Fry for his efforts in organizing the event.
Sheriff Miller said September 11, 2001 is a date “we should never forget.”
He noticed the need for peace starts locally in ourselves, in the family and spills over to the local community, state, nation, and then the world.
He recognized those in his office who were present for the event.
Sheriff Miller also thanked those in attendance for their support during his many years of service as he will be retiring at the end of this year.
Little Dixie Fire Protection District’s Deputy Fire Chief Steve Gentry gave a few remarks.
He introduced some of the district’s firefighters present for the event.
Captain Logan Motley, of the Audrain County Ambulance District, also addressed those in attendance and publicly recognized some of those present who serve in the district.
A representative from the Missouri State Highway Patrol was unable to attend the event due to an emergency.
Fry asked for the head of each agency to mention names of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.
“Anything you see on the news can happen in Mexico (and other counties),” Fry noted.
Shaw closed the event with a prayer followed by Fry’s prayer for peace.
A “Christmas in September” event was also held from 1:30-2 p.m. as care packages were brought in for people who serve and protect the community.