Remembering heroes

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
It was a beautiful day to remember a horrible day.

Basking in clear skies and mild 80-degree temperatures, Hillsboro joined countless communities across the country Wednesday, Sept. 11, in remembering the terrorist attacks of a year ago and thanking the local heroes who stand in harm’s way at home.

Expressions of remembrance began at Tabor College, where the carillon rang seven times at 7:45 a.m., 8:03 a.m., 8:43 a.m. and 9 a.m.-the times the four planes crashed one year ago.

“These may be used as times of remembrance, and hopefully as times of prayer for the families and friends of the victims of that day, and as a time to seek God’s peace in this world as we wait for our final peace,” Brad Vogel, associate professor of vocal music, said in a memo to faculty.

At 8:30 a.m., Hillsboro Middle School students gathered on the west side of the building to hear Principal Evan Yoder decry the acts of “evil people” that led to the loss of so many lives. He encouraged students to be people committed to doing acts of goodness and kindness.

After his brief remarks, the school band played the national anthem before loading buses to march in the Kansas State Fair in Hutchinson.

At 8:45, Hillsboro Elementary School students gathered in the gym to hear from Principal Pat Call and Superintendent Gordon Mohn.

Call told students that as they review “horrible scenes” on television from that fateful day, they should also remember they have many people working to keep them safe from harm. He listed parents, school staff, local emergency responders, churches and others.

Call encouraged students to be heroes, too, “even in small ways” by being kind to each other, their teachers, and their parents.

Mohn told students Sept. 11, 2001, would be a “day that will stick in your memory for the rest of your life,” even as other days have been seared in the memory of other generations: the attack on Pearl Harbor for his parents, the assassination of President Kennedy for his peers, and the Challenger explosion for his children.

Mohn challenged students to learn positive lessons from this tragedy, even as other generations had learned from theirs.

At 10 a.m., a large turnout of local citizens pleasantly surprised city officials and the Hillsboro Area Ministerial Alliance, which had joined forces to plan a “9/11 Remembrance” service at city hall.

About 100 people came, necessitating a move from the building’s east meeting room to the larger west room.

“This is this generation’s ‘day of infamy,’ I believe,” City Administrator Steven Garrett said in his opening remarks. “It’s fitting that we pause now and remember not only what happened on 9/11, and what it means to the victims and their families, but also what it means to us.”

Asked to read from from Scripture, Ben Steketee, Hillsboro fire chief, chose John 15:13, which, he said, “very aptly sums up the character of all emergency services.”

The verse: “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

In a brief meditation, Bruce Porter, pastor of the Hillsboro Mennonite Brethren Church, said: “9/11 has become much more than an abbreviation for a day. It represents not only the terrible events now marked in our shared history, but it carries with it all of the feelings and emotions associated with terrorism, and the unexpected and unexplained tragedies of life.”

Porter held up an old wash basin that had been at his church years ago for foot-washing. He said twice on the night before Jesus was handed over to be crucified, the Bible mentions a basin and water-once when a government official washed his hands of responsibility for the impending crucifixion, and once when Jesus washed the feet of his disciples to demonstrate servanthood.

“Today we think of faithful servants-ones who have refused the basin of excuses and have taken up the basin of service,” Porter said in reference to local emergency responders.

As an expression of appreciation for their service, Mayor Delores Dalke then listed the names of those who serve Hillsboro as police, firefighters and emergency medical technicians.

At the suggestion of a participant, the service ended with the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.

Back at Hillsboro Elementary, students and staff joined members of the police department, sheriff’s office, fire department, dispatch office, ambulance crew and the American Legion at 11:30 a.m. for a sack lunch with hero sandwiches.

After the meal, held inside the school’s circle drive and surrounded by emergency vehicles, Call introduced each guest to the students, and together they recited the Pledge of Allegiance, then joined Rod Koons in singing the national anthem.

9/11 events came to a close at 7 p.m., when the Tabor College community gathered for prayer, singing and viewing a video chronicling the tragedy.

Several members of the Tabor community described how the events of last year affected them. The evening ended with a candlelight vigil in memory of the lives lost.

“Events such as those of last Sept. 11 will be with us for as long as we live,” said Tabor president Larry Nikkel as the service neared.

“At the time of the occurrence, we are often so impacted that we cannot fully grasp the significance, nor are we able in the midst of the crisis, to know how to respond.

“Now, one year later, we should take the opportunity to remember and to learn.”

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