BLUEFIELD — Click here to watch the video
The two Bluefields remembered the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on U.S. soil with services of remembrance, service projects and interfaith religious services. Although 12 years have passed since terrorists hijacked four commercial aircraft, flew two into the north and south towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, one into the Pentagon and crashed the fourth into a field in rural southwestern Pennsylvania, but people still remembered.
“In times of trouble, we step up to the plate,” Bluefield Vice Mayor Barbara Smith said at the 8th annual service of remembrance hosted by the city of Bluefield in Chicory Square. “The freedoms we enjoy today have come with great sacrifice. Freedom is not free,” Smith said.
Master Sgt. Joe Garcia, U.S. Air Force, retired, recapped the terrible details of the attacks, but added: “Ladies and gentlemen, that’s history. We can’t change history, but we can influence the future.” He asked the audience of about 100 people to recall the changes since those attacks and asked them to remember all emergency responders and the men and women serving in the military.
“Twelve years ago, 3,000 people passed on a spirit and strength before they died,” he said.
Firefighter Shannon Akers of the Bluefield Fire Department read the “Fireman’s Prayer,” and explained the bell ceremony before Firefighter Justin Lucas rang three groups of five rings each on the department’s bell.
Director Ellen Light of the Bluefield city board of directors pointed out how Americans have historically answered the call to serve. “We are, indeed, a nation of first responders,” she said.
The Reverend Susan Rector offered the opening prayer and Bluefield City Manager Jim Ferguson offered the closing prayer. “We will never forget the day our freedom was attacked,” Ferguson said.
Sgt. Joseph Carter, of the 1st of the 150th West Virginia U.S. Army National Guard said that services like the one in Bluefield have had more meaning to him since he returned home from a tour in Iraq. “I was in high school at the time of the attacks,” he said.
Specialist E-4 Aaron Walkup said he was in fifth grade when he learned of the attacks. “I remember the day, but I didn’t understand it until later,” he said. “That’s why I decided to serve in the military.”
As part of a national day of remembrance for 9/11, Bluefield College students participated in the National Day of Service to pay tribute to all the victims and heroes through service projects in the community. Students went to the Wade Center in Bluefield, Tazewell County Library in Bluefield, Va., First Christian Church in Bluefield, Sanders House in Bluefield, Va., and the Bluefield College Campus to perform tasks ranging from cleaning to helping children with their homework.
Wade Center Director Jessica McDaniel said she had expected 10 to 12 Bluefield College students, but twice that number arrived to work with children and help with other tasks around the facility.
“When the kids go to the classrooms for their homework, we need more than one teacher to help,” McDaniel said. Volunteers who wish to help are still welcome.
Bluefield College basketball player Jade McDaniel (no relation to the director ) said helping at the center helps the team give back to the community.
“I feel the community supports us a lot by coming to our games and giving when they can,” McDaniel said. “A lot of these kids look up to us as role models. Working with them helps them get to know us a little better than just watching us on the court.”
McDaniel remembered the events of Sept. 11, 2001, and hoped to pass those memories on to future generations who were born after that day.
Daniel Griffin, a member of Bluefield College’s football team, was a third grade student the day the terrorist attacks struck the United States.
“I do remember 9/11,” he said. “At the time we got let out of school because we were close to a large oil reserve in our town of Greensboro, N.C. I guess I was mainly glad I was getting out of school until I saw the news reports,” he said. “I remember the image of a plane going into the building.”
Elementary education major Shilah Stiff, now 18, was six when the 9/11 attacks occurred. She remembers little of that day, but learned of the events later. Now her thoughts are focused on working with the Wade Center’s children and preparing for teaching.