CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – Fire Chief Freddie Montgomery and Mayor Joe Pitts led a ceremony Friday morning to honor fallen firefighters and police officers and the victims of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
The ceremony also served as an annual opportunity to pay tribute to the memory of three Clarksville firefighters who have died in the line of duty: Firefighter Claude B. Walker, who died in 1960; Capt. George “Pen” Wilson, in 1967; and Eng. Ray Harrison, in 1981.
“I’m pleased to see so many people here,” Chief Montgomery told the crowd during his welcoming remarks. “We went ahead with this ceremony, despite the pandemic and while maintaining CDC health guidelines, to make sure we never forget these events.”
After a moment of silence, memorial bell ringing, singing of the National Anthem, and prayer, Mayor Pitts offered the day’s keynote speech.
“I wanted to speak their names ahead of the moment when we will honor these brave men. Their bravery and sacrifice should never be just a footnote in our City’s history. We owe them much more,” Mayor Pitts said.
“And as the nation turns its attention, just for a moment, away from pandemics, racial inequality, and other threats to our future, we will mark this moment in our history, and keep this day on that revered list that will forever be etched into our memories.”
After the speech, Chief Montgomery pointed to a display of photos of the fallen Clarksville firefighters and asked a member of each family to stand as a firefighter solemnly presented them with a red rose.
The remembrance ceremony began at 8:46 a.m. -- the moment when Flight 11 struck the World Trade Center’s North Tower on Sept. 11, 2001 -- with a crowd of about 125 people gathered at Clarksville’s Fire Station No. 1. Audience members, who were required to wear face masks, practice social distancing and undergo pre-event temperature checks, included various first responders and members of the Clarksville City Council, City Department heads, Montgomery County elected leaders, and Clarksville-Montgomery County citizens.
With Clarksville Fire Chief Freddie Montgomery at his side, Mayor Joe Pitts addresses the crowd gathered Friday for the 2020 9/11 Remembrance Ceremony.
2020 9/11 CEREMONY SPEECH
Here is the full text of the speech delivered Friday by Mayor Joe Pitts at the 9/11 Ceremony presented by Clarksville Fire rescue.
Good morning. Thank you Clarksville Fire Rescue Chief Freddie Montgomery and to the women and men of Fire Rescue, thank you for your extraordinary service to our City and her citizens.
Today marks the 19th anniversary of a crucible moment that now defines our nation. September 11, 2001 is a day that will “live in infamy,” just as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said about Pearl Harbor Day, December 7, 1941.
Today our community joins countless other communities around the world in remembrance. But let us resolve that we will always pause to honor the first responders -- fire, police, emergency workers -- and the men and women who serve us in the military.
It’s been said: “All men were created equal, and then a few became firefighters.”
Our firefighters and emergency responders are special folks who step up in our community every day to keep our citizens and our property safe.
I am profoundly grateful and deeply humbled by the heroism and sacrifice of the brave men and women of Clarksville Fire Rescue. You do not stand alone or unappreciated. We stand with you in our hearts and thoughts, and we pray everyday for your safety and success.
And to the women and men who serve and protect us as members of the ]Clarksville Police Department, I am also deeply grateful, especially in this time of our nation’s history, for you answering the clarion call to wear the uniform. In Clarksville we celebrate the Police Department and its efforts to build relationships and help citizens in distress. And yes, we do arrest the bad guys. We have much to be proud of in our City, and our nationally accredited Clarksville Police Department is at the top of that list.
And, in the important and poignant part of our gathering today, we pay tribute to the memory of three of our city’s firefighters who died in the line of duty: Firefighter Claude Walker, Captain Pen Wilson and Engineer Ray Harrison.
I wanted to speak their names ahead of the moment when we will honor these brave men. Their bravery and sacrifice should never be just a footnote in our City’s history. We owe them much more.
As the nation turns its attention, just for a moments, away from pandemics, racial inequality, and other threats to our future, we will mark this moment in our history, and keep this day on that revered list that will forever be etched into our memories.
That list includes:
The passage of the 19th and 15th Amendments granting women and African American men the right to vote.
The Marines landing on Iwo Jima during World War 2.
Neil Armstrong setting foot on the moon.
Passage of the Civil Rights Act.
And now, in the blink of an eye, 19 years have passed since 2,977 people perished in three separate attacks on our country -- in New York City, Washington, D.C. and Shanksville, Pa. Among those were 343 firefighters and 71 law enforcement officers, and the death toll continues to rise in the War on Terror that followed.
Inside each of those numbers is a soul, a father, a mother, son, daughter, aunt, uncle or niece.
That is the unfortunate and horrific price we pay for the lack of peace today. Lives lost and cut short. Lives taken too quickly. Futures never realized.
So on the 19th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on our nation, let’s heed the words of the Prophet Isaiah, who admonished us to “beat our swords into plowshares, and our spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” (Isaiah 2:4).
Thank you for joining me in this ceremony today, and may God bless you!