By Leila Beem Núñez, Editor
Monday marked the 16th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people in New York City, and to honor those who fell, a ceremony was held on the square to recognize fallen civilians, fallen first responders and those who continue to put their lives at risk for the safety of their communities.
Paul Gish with the American Legion was the master of ceremonies.
Gish said that through the terror, first responders gave their all to help save those they could. Many paid the ultimate price.
“Down below, the firefighters and police officers were running into the building trying to save lives, and when those buildings came down, 343 firefighters and 72 law enforcement officers lost their lives doing their duty trying to save lives,” Gish said. “They are heroes.”
Gish mentioned law enforcement officers and firefighters who have more recently been killed in the line of duty, like Houston police officer Steve Perez, who recently lost his life in efforts to help those in his community during the floods following Hurricane Harvey. Perez left his house against his wife’s wishes, saying, “We’ve got work to do.” Gish also spoke of former THP Patrolman Donald Vance, of Manchester, and Patrolman Louis Hendrix, who worked extensively around Coffee County, as they both recently passed away.
Gish took the time to say that the ceremony also served as a way to give recognition to those who are still among us, doing their work– from firefighters to police officers to 911 center dispatchers – to keep their neighborhoods safe.
“[First responders] are those who go out every day doing a job making a difference,” Gish said.
During the ceremony, 12 first responders from around the area were introduced and presented with plaques: Aaron Brown, of Hillsboro Volunteer Fire Department; Christopher Kepley of Summitville Volunteer Fire Department; Benjamin Sneed of the Coffee County Sheriff’s Department; Nicholas Slone of New Union Fire Department; Jamie Newman of Manchester Police Department; Johnny Fults of Manchester Fire Rescue; Randall Williams of Tennessee Highway Patrol; Leonard Pike, Jr. of Coffee County Rescue Squad; Devin Deford of Hickerson Station Volunteer Department; Ricky Prince of Tullahoma Fire Department; Brooke Earhart of Tullahoma Police Department and Denise Summers of Coffee County 911 Communication Center.
Newman, honored for his work with MPD, said he was humbled by the award and said he shared it with his whole department.
“Everybody [at MPD] has something to teach me – all the guys in the department,” Newman said. “I couldn’t do it without their support.”