East Liberty American Legion Post 321 conducted a 9/11 observance ceremony Thursday evening in front of the Midway Police Department.
Post 321 Commander Dennis Fitzgerald and Junior Vice Commander Jason Childers, Riceboro firefighters Scott and Shawn Relaford and Bryan County Fire Chief Otis Willis, as well as Midway Police Officer Matthew Ainsworth, conducted a ceremony that honored the 2,977 who died in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and those service men and women who’ve since died fighting the war on terror.
With the American flag at half-staff, three men discussed what 9/11 means to them.
“That day really represents a lot,” Ainsworth, 23, said. “A lot of people sacrificed a lot that day. It really showed theheroism of police and firefighters. But this is what we do. We put our lives on the line.”
When Willis, who would not say his age at the time of 9/11, tried to talk about that day, he choked up about the terrible loss of innocent lives and the sacrifices so many made to prevent more loss of life.
“To me, 9/11 represents what we as firefighters do,” Willis said. “I think about the thousands of people that were able to get out and the courage of those who stayed there and provided help for others. As a veteran, I also think about the veterans who’ve died since that day in Iraq and Afghanistan. Let’s remember those veterans and their families as well as the (first responders).”
Fitzgerald, who was the commander of another Legion post on 9/11, was on his way to Blackshear to open the post when someone called and told him to turn on his radio. He was horrified. Originally from New York, Fitzgerald knew the locations of the fire stations mentioned. He said the plane that hit the Pentagon struck the area he had worked in the 1980s while he was still in the Army.
Following the personal testimonies of where they were on 9/11, Fitzgerald ordered the flag returned to full height. Members were called to attention just as they would if they were in the military, and then ordered to salute the flag as it was first lowered and then returned to its proper place.
Post 321 members then held an annual meeting inside the police department, mostly discussing plans for their upcoming fundraiser, a 5K Fun Run on Nov. 1. Finance Officer Jeffrey Bowen said funds raised from the event will be used to buy the turkeys and trimmings for food baskets the post gives away to needy families every Thanksgiving.
On Wednesday, Gov. Nathan Deal declared Sept. 16 as American Legion Day. For more information about that day and Post 321, read the Wednesday edition of the Coastal Courier.