Shelby County remembers 9/11

Shelby Countians turned out en masse to remember September 11, 2001, last week at Oak Mountain Amphitheatre in Pelham.

On a night with non-stop television tributes as well as several religious services at local churches, more than 5,000 people decided instead to attend &uot;9-11 Remembered: The Spirit of America,&uot; a special three-hour event sponsored by Shelby County, the city of Pelham and the Shelby County Sheriff’s Department.

Soon after the gates opened, the Pelham High School band performed a number of patriotic selections on the Charter Communications stage as people walked to their seats.

Master of Ceremonies Wayne Thompson officially opened the night at about 7 p.m., summarizing the reasons America still survives and thrives today.

&uot;On Sept. 11, terrorists attacked the symbols of American freedom, prosperity and military might,&uot; he said.

&uot;They induced violence on

thousands of innocent people, small children, mothers and fathers &045; people of many nationalities and religions.&uot;

He then gave the crowd a stern warning not to lose sight of what makes America great.

&uot;In less than a month, the United States responded (to the attacks). Today, one often hears ‘Everything has changed after Sept. 11.’ While the nation is united in support of the great effort of the armed forces, the danger is that complacency will slowly return. The temptation that we will return to our old ways looms,&uot; he said.

&uot;People must be vigilant not to forget or disregard the lessons of Sept. 11. We are here to pay homage to the fallen and to honor to the spirit of freedom that will live on as long as there is a United States of America.&uot;

Mac Stinson, President of the Sheriff’s Office Chaplains, led a somber prayer. He asked everyone to remember the families of the victims as well as honor the public safety personnel, veterans, reserve and active duty members of the military and emergency servants.

After the invocation by Stinson, the Pelham Fire Department Color Guard led the Presentation of the Colors with a trumpet salute.

Then came the highlight of the night, a procession of more than 50 uniformed service personnel from throughout the county who strode from outside to the amphitheater’s stage. They were greeted with a standing ovation from the jovial, proud and flag waving crowd.

The personnel included members of several of the county’s fire, emergency, and police departments, as well as sheriff’s deputies.

Another highlight came when the Pelham Fire Department Ensemble sang &uot;God Bless the USA.&uot;

As he introduced his nine-member vocal group, Pelham Fire Fighter Lt. Don Green gave his views on the anniversary.

&uot;Out of all the people who were killed on Sept. 11, 2001 … there were three kinds of people: there were victims, there were bystanders and there were heroes,&uot; he said. &uot;The victims speak for themselves. The bystanders were willing to stand back and watch and see what happened. Then there were the heroes. Not just the police, the firefighters or the Port Authority, but everyone who was willing to step in and do a little extra to make a difference.&uot;

Green called the event attendees &uot;heroes as well.&uot;

&uot;You are willing to come here at a time that is being recognized as a threat for terrorist activity,&uot; he said. &uot;You are willing to come here tonight and stick up for what you believe and say there is a God. Join us tonight as we lift up our arms to the heavens and say there is a God and he has blessed the USA.&uot;

The night also included a Sept. 11, 2001, retrospective on videotape produced by ABC 33/40 as well as a speech by Chelsea Mayor Earl Niven. Niven led a group of 43 local seniors citizens on a tour of New York and Niagara Falls last Sept. 11, 2001.

Last Wednesday night, he recalled the group’s firsthand experience as witnesses to the attacks.

He told of how the event has left a deeply religious impression on him along with many of the tour’s other participants. It was Niven’s fifth speaking engagement of the day.

In addition, the Birmingham folk group, Three on a String, belted out six songs.

Three on a String musicians Jerry Ryan, Bobby Horton, and Brad Ryan, backed up by the Alabama Symphony Orchestra,

ended their performance with &uot;This Land is Your Land.&uot;

The Elvin Hill Dancers from Columbiana and a large community chorus rounded out the night’s performers