BLUE RIDGE, GA – It was a solemn and beautiful experience for those who gathered at the Performing Arts Center on Saturday, September 9, 2017.
Awake America held their 9th Annual Regional 9/11 Prayer and Memorial Service. The Regional Ensemble, Regional Chorus, and Fannin County High School Chorus were present to pay tribute to the fallen.
Mayor Donna Whitener was there to welcome guests. She reminded us that “many precious lives have been lost due to hate” and would like to see “America come together and for Americans to pray for protection and be lifted up.”
The Keynote speaker for the afternoon was Fannin County School Superintendent Dr. Michael Gwatney. He began his speech by honoring and thanking our public safety workers, veterans and active forces, as so many members in these fields have lost their lives as a result of 9/11.
Dr. Gwatney discussed the role of God in our government, quoting a letter written by Benjamin Franklin in relation to the Declaration of Independence.
The letter was quoted as saying that in the beginning of the founding of this nation, “We were sensible of nature and had daily prayer.” It went on to add, “We now have forgotten this powerful friend or do we imagine that we no longer need his assistance?”
Representatives from a variety of denominations within the Christian faith were present to offer prayer for many troubles that afflict our nation and our individual communities.
A visual display was set up on stage to honor all who had lost their lives as a result of the horrific events that unfolded on September 11, 2001. Individuals walked to center stage to represent the different demographics affected.
Among these representatives were firefighters, policemen, civilians, clergy, first responders, veterans, and children.
Emotion ran high as Firefighter Christopher Brewer performed the ceremonial ringing of the bell. Three chimes of the bell signifies that “a Comrade has come home for the final time.” This is a tradition that is carried out through Fire Departments nationwide.
The ringing of the bell ceremony was followed by a rifle salute, and tears fell throughout the assembly as “Taps” was played by the North Georgia Honor Guard.
Awake America hosts this annual event not only in hopes of spreading their message of prayer and unity, but also as a reminder of 9/11 and the events that changed America forever.
Fannin Volunteer Bradley Beaver was in elementary school on September 11, 2001. That morning, the teachers brought the students together and they watched as the United States and the world changed forever. Now, as a First Responder himself, Sept. 11 is more personal. Beaver said, “Sept. 11th makes you completely aware about things that could actually happen. Just because it (Blue Ridge) is a small town, it doesn’t mean it can’t happen here. Coming together today as a community in the name of the Lord shows greatness for our future.”
Barbara Stone of Boy Scout Troop 460 in Morganton was holding her youngest child, age three, on her hip as she watched coverage of the terrorist attack on television. Today, she accompanied Scouts to the Awake America ceremony. Almost all of the Scouts there were born after Sept. 11, 2001. “It’s important for the boys to remember so they know what happened, why it is important to protect the community, and to see the community come together before God,” said Stone.
Troop 460 has long participated in community events honoring those who lost their lives in service of their county. The troop helps Fannin veterans with Memorial Day and Veterans Day ceremonies.
Martha Smith volunteered for Awake America because she believes in the power of prayer. America will do great through prayer and under God’s direction said Smith. Smith said that the prayers some of the prayers offered up during the ceremony would be for freedom of our religion and the liberty we have in Christ. We will also intercede for our country as we pray for national, state and local politicians.
Beaver, Jones and Smith represent the three themes of the 8th Annual 9/11 Awake America Prayer and Memorial Service – thanking First Responders and US Armed Service Personnel for continually laying their lives on the line for Americans here and America abroad, training youth to become righteous leaders of their communities and petitioning God through prayer to heal our land.
Fannin County Sheriff Dane Kirby gave the invocation. In it he asked God to hold a protecting hand over public safety officers and their families. He thanked the youth there for being forward thinkers and reminded the audience that each young person in the nation is our future.
Zachary Stotler gave the Keynote Address. He decried the dangers of drugs, drinking and evolution that is present in public schools and universities. In front of images of New York city on Sept. 11, 2001, he also spoke about the evils of foreign religions coming into our lands and disrupting traditional American religions. However, he did not specify what the foreign religions are.
Numerous youth choirs and ensembles performed hymns and anthems like Amazing Grace, How Great Thou Art, Battle Hymn of the Republic and the Star-Spangled Banner that embody American Protestants’ belief in God and country. Youth as young as elementary-school age led prayers in front of the 300 plus participants.
The themes of public service, prayer and youth were present in the Salute to the Fallen portion of the program. Representatives of current Fannin and Gilmer First Responders, Military Veterans, priests and youth stood center stage as a bell rang three times, signifying the final homecoming of the New York firefighters killed on 911. Taps played its mournful sound.
The 9/11 Awake America Prayer and Memorial Service is part of a year-round monthly prayer meeting called “Awake America.” Community members and local churches gather in locations in Blairsville, Blue Ridge, Hiawassee, Murphy, Oakwood, Ellijay, Ducktown. Starting in October there will also be monthly prayer meetings in Winder, GA and Benton, TN. For more information, see Awake America’s website at www.awakeamerica.info.
This article has been updated.
Awake America and the Copper Basin Ministerial Association held a memorial service in honor of those lives lost on that dreaded day nearly twelve years ago when the Twin Towers and Pentagon were damaged on September 11, 2001. (more…)