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Community remembers Sept. 11 victims and heroes

Firefighters salute as the Henderson County Honor Guard retires the colors. Firefighters salute as the Henderson County Honor Guard retires the colors.

The sky was blue and the air crisp, much like that morning 20 years ago, when an audience made up mostly of first responders gathered at the Historic Courthouse plaza at 8:30 Saturday morning.

As if on cue, a passenger jet streaked across the sky. A coincidence, to be sure, but one that had everyone thinking back to where they were on Sept. 11, 2001.
“There’s a lot I’ve tried to forget about 9/11,” said Chief Blair Myhand, who was a Washington, D.C., Metro Police officer called to respond to the Pentagon crash 20 years ago and a U.S. Army National Guard veteran who served a combat tour in Afghanistan. “If memory serves me correctly, at least in Washington, it was a day like today. That day changed American forever and it will never be the same as it was then. Our nation went to war, the longest war this country has ever fought.”
He expressed thanks that his career path had brought him to Hendersonville.
“This is a job that I’m thankful God has called me to do and I can’t imagine doing anything else and all the folks standing out here are the same way,” he said. Sen. Chuck Edwards had said earlier, no one gets rich being a first responder.
“Chuck said this isn’t a well-paying job and you don’t do it for the glory,” he said. “You do it because you’re called to do this job and that’s the only way you’re going to get through times like these. I’m so very thankful that I live in a community that will come together on a day like today and honor all the Americans that were killed that day. It’s by the grace of God that we’re here today and that we’re able to honor those men and women.”
In brief remarks wrapping up the remembrance, Jimmy Brissie, the county’s Emergency Services director, recalled feeling overwhelmed at the magnitude of the task of honoring the victims and the heroes of Sept. 11.
“As Mr. Mitchell and I were starting to discuss the program for this solemn 20th anniversary of 9/11 we kept coming back to this idea of how can we even begin to memorialize the losses from that day and then the sacrifices that have been made every day since then that allow us to be here today,” he said. “We can do that by celebrating those freedoms. We can serve others and we can continue to living our lives to our fullest potential. We’re in a unique time now that for some of us in public safety — some of you — they don’t remember 9/11. We have firefighters, we have police officers, that hadn’t been born. They weren’t able to experience that pain, that loss, that tragedy of that day. But they also weren’t able to experience the resiliency, the hope and the unity of Sept. 12.”
Brissie quoted President Reagan, speaking on the 40th anniversary of D-Day: “We will always remember, we will always be proud, we will always be prepared so we may always be free.”
“I believe this statement holds true for 9/11.We remember it, we are proud of who we are as a nation and we will continually strive to be better prepared so we may remain be free.”
Friday, Brissie noted, marked the one-year anniversary of the death of Henderson County Deputy Ryan Hendrix in the line of duty.
Sheriff Lowell Griffin, who was unable to be at the Sept. 11 ceremony, told Brissie that he encouraged his team “to spend time this weekend doing exactly what Ryan would want them to do on this anniversary — celebrate their lives and celebrate their freedom with their family.”
Brissie urged everyone throughout the day to find time to revere, remember and reflect on the patriots who died on Sept. 11 and those who continue to serve on the front lines as first responders.
Following the playing of “Taps,” the Henderson County Honor Guard, led by retired State Highway Patrol Sgt. John Dunn, retired the colors and marched to the south away from the Historic Courthouse plaza under a bright blue sky that was so much like the one 20 years ago.