BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – Fannin County is honoring its past this weekend as residents and local officials met over the weekend for a special celebration and honoring of a major figure from their past.
The Highway 515 Bridge in Fannin County that passes over Ada Street now has an official name, the “John D McDaniel Bridge.” The celebration saw family and friends with new signs for the bridge to formalize the naming.
McDaniel was not only a member of the clergy and a spiritual guide to citizens, but he previously served as a Commissioner of Education and served in the Georgia General Assembly from 1893 to 1897.
The event was also attended by current Fannin County Schools Superintendent Dr. Michael Gwatney and Georgia Speaker of the House of Representatives David Ralston.
Ralston spoke about the event saying, “This past weekend, I was honored to be joined by the descendants of the Reverend John D. McDaniel as we dedicated the bridge on Highway 515 over Ada Street in Blue Ridge in his memory.”
With the signs up, Fannin memorializes a citizen from the past and honored his family who remain in the county he served so diligently.
BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – It may seem like a small gesture to some, but for those in Gilmer County, Georgia, a simple jersey is relating a lot more than meets the eye as they receive a memorial jersey to honor Gilmer’s middle school principal, the late Larry Walker.
With a special moment before the middle school football games between these two schools on September 19, Fannin County School Superintendent Dr. Michael Gwatney took to the field with Gilmer County School Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs and Appalachian Judicial Circuit District Attorney Alison Sosebee for a special ceremony in order to present the jersey hosting the emblems of both Gilmer and Fannin.
After a few words about Walker’s life and a moment of silence honoring him, Gwatney and Downs shared their own moment holding the jersey together. The announcers explained the meaning of the ceremony saying,
“The jersey being presented to the Gilmer Middle School football team bears the name of Walker with the #1. Also on the jersey is the Fannin County School insignia and the Gilmer County School insignia. The jersey being presented is in memory of Larry D. Walker, principal of Gilmer Middle School, and signifying Fannin County and Gilmer County are together as one, both in spirit and community.”
With the funeral today, many are still dealing with the loss as they prepare their final respects. Others are coping in their own ways. But as a community comes together and the true reach of one man comes into focus, they are responding to the show of support. Kayann Hayden West offered her thanks on social media saying, “Thankful for the support of our community and the Walker family up and down the 515 corridor. Rivals on the field but united in purpose and heart.”
Seventeen years ago, I’m certain you were inundated with people saying “Never forget” and newscasts saying “We will always remember.”
Indeed, the entire nation, and even the world, poured out its heart for America and the major wound we were struck with. It is the kind of thing that people everywhere will remember. The kind of thing that I will tell my children about. It is indeed something one cannot easily forget.
Even the numbers dredge up memories of all kinds. And honestly, not all of them are bad. I have fond memories of that day. Shock, gasp. I know you may have anger at hearing that but think of yourself on that day. Did you have people with you? Were you amongst friends? Do you remember people all over the world start saying ‘we.’
Today, we find anything we can to show how different we are from one another. We are a divided country. I don’t want to take a side and tell you that you are wrong, whatever you think. It is honestly probably why we have issues. We can’t disagree without getting angry.
But think back to that day…
I sat among fellow students in a freshman orientation class in high school. It is scarred into the wall of my brain that our desks were placed in a circle and I had only one or two of my “friends” in the class. There was even a guy in that class that I really did not like. We did not get along and we did not like each other at all. My how quickly and easily that melted away in the glow of a tv screen as I, first hand, watched a second plane fly into the building.
I feel its impact even today, and I was nowhere near New York. I couldn’t feel it at the time, but today I can remember my body shook when it hit, as if it hit me just as hard as it hit the building.
I remember hearing the report about another one hitting the Pentagon. I remember not doing anything in any class except one, Algebra. I remember the rage that permeated every person in that school that day. Not just anger, a burning rage threatening to engulf your soul. A rage that broke chains and welled up from somewhere incredibly dark near the bottom of my stomach. It was more powerful because it sensed itself in every other person.
Seventeen years, do you remember?
Do you remember the songs written and speeches made? Do you remember being an American? Forget the conspiracies about it, forget the doubt about what really happened. Do you remember that specific moment of impact?
It’s not a special anniversary, it’s not the ten or twenty year anniversary. This long since something and we as people tend to only really recall things on nice, round-numbered years.
Are we remembering? Have we forgotten even though we said we wouldn’t?
I don’t think so. I think seventeen years later, people still hurt. I know the people you don’t speak to on this day and the people who need you to speak on this day.
I know the guy who plans a trip every September. I know he doesn’t actually go anywhere except into the woods to be alone. We don’t talk about his trips, I just understand his Dad was in New York that day on business. Isolated near a stream maybe, maybe he’s up a tree. I don’t know where he is, but inside I hear him screaming at the top of his lungs in his isolation.
I know the woman who holds her son up like a banner for his service because she never had the chance to see him grow into anything else after he died fighting for us.
I see counties and cities holding memorials on this day, but I see something else. I see the separation. I see the people forgetting something along the way.
I can’t forget that pain. I can’t forget that day. I can’t forget that tv. I can’t forget the faces. I didn’t lose anyone close to me. I had friends who served, but I didn’t lose anyone so close as a brother, sister, father, mother, cousin. I have been so lucky, so why is this day forever seared into my soul?
Maybe I’m being emotional? Maybe I’m thinking too much? Will you judge me for that? Will you think less if I can’t let go? Or would it be worse if I didn’t care?
What if I didn’t write this and you never read it? You’d go about your day and maybe you would think about what today is or maybe it’d slip by as you try to finish that project just get through a tough day. What if we let this day fade into history as a footnote and we never look back to think about the feelings of that day, the pain, the rage, the hurt, the solace, the people?
What if we forgot?
JASPER, Ga. – It’s not Veterans’ Day, but you might think it was if you were in Pickens County on August 9 as they finally dedicated their long-awaited Veterans Memorial next to Lee Newton Park.
Situated at the edge of the parking lot on Stegall Drive, the Memorial opened for the public with an official dedication at 11:00 a.m. The dedication saw the colors of each military branch set in honor at the site while veterans and members of the American Legion hung the American Flag over the memorial. While several people offered words to sanctify the grounds, they added an offering of the 21-Gun Salute and “Taps,” as well.
The ceremony’s impact was only dwarfed by the size of the crowd that attended the day to offer thanks and respect to those who served. Most of them are veterans or have veterans in their family, a fact noted when a speaker asked these people to raise their hands during his speech.
One of those veterans is Al Parson Larson. At 90-years-old, Larson says he served on the USS Astoria, a light cruiser, in World War II. The day’s events held a certain somberness throughout, but meeting Larson punctuated the event as he confessed it would be the last time he would ever wear his uniform. It has been 70 years since Larson last wore his uniform in the line of duty. He says he has reached the point where it is just too difficult to get it on. He chuckled a moment before saying, “At least it still fits.”
Attending the event with his son, Larson was one of the few attending the event in uniform, and hundreds more who bore caps, shirts, and more signifying their service. But this photo, according to him, will be one of the last photos ever taken of him dressed out.
Veterans Memorial Park holds 5 smaller monuments in individual bricked in areas becoming part of the larger memorial that hosts bricks of honor for those who wish to purchase them in order to help build, expand, and maintain the memorial. Hoping to extend these bricks across the hillside, they confirmed they are still selling the bricks and will continue selling them indefinitely.
One speaker noted that 1% of Americans have served in the military, but looking at Pickens County, 12% of those in the county are veterans. Looking at this statistic, it has long been a need to honor that large portion of the community. But the honor is for all those who serve. The memorial has been a long time needed and a long time coming, but today it is finished. It stands as this county’s tribute for those in service.
Summing up the day’s feelings, John Trammell, President and CEO of Community Bank of Pickens County, said, “Vets, thank you for bravely doing what you were called to do so we can safely do what we are free to do.”
Make sure to check out more photos of the day at FYN’s Facebook Page.
As the morning sun poured platinum over the streets of Blue Ridge last Saturday, citizens of all ages gathered in the city park gazebo to pay their respects to the heroes and victims of the 9/11 terror attacks on this tenth anniversary of the catastrophe. County officials and residents alike gathered to remember the devastating events of ten years ago. Under tents stretched before the gazebo, citizens watched attentively, while they listened to the Fannin County High School Band perform the musical prelude to the ceremony. (more…)
Fannin County remembers the events of 9/11. (more…)