WINTER HAVEN – There’s a reason, Jamie Brown said, that her agency takes the time to remember the devastating terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
“9-11 changed a lot,” she said. “Kids in elementary school don’t remember 9-11. This is just a way to keep that in focus.”
Taking time to reflect on the attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C. are important in another way, she added: by remembering the courage and sacrifice that first responders made on that day – and continue to make today.
“In order to bring the public back to remember them, these guys and gals get up every morning — or every night if they work the night shift — and as soon as they hit the ground, they don’t know if they’re coming home,” Brown said. “It’s just a way to show our appreciation to them.”
The event is called Honoring Our Heroes–Remembering the Day, and will take place on Saturday, Sept. 8 at Central Park in downtown Winter Haven. It begins at 6 p.m. and is a collaboration between the Polk County Veteran’s Council and the agency that Brown works for as the public information officer, the Winter Haven Police Department.
The event will mark the eleventh anniversary of 9-11, honors all of Polk County’s first responders, and pays tribute to those who lost their lives in that tragic attack.
The Winter Haven Police Department is the sponsoring law enforcement agency for the event, with the Winter Haven Fire Department assisting as well.
“This event is a way to pull all of Polk County together and show our local heroes how much they mean to us,” said Gary Clark, spokesman for the Polk County Veteran’s Council. “As a community, we should pay tribute to all of those who serve us on a daily basis, putting their lives on the line whether here at home or abroad.”
It also features the 4th Annual Freedom Walk.
“The Freedom Walk will kick off at 6 o’clock,” Brown said. “This is a symbolic walk for our first responders. They put their boots on every day, and they walk for each one of us as a citizen to protect us and keep us safe, so it’s a symbolic way for the public to take on that role and say, ‘I will take this moment to walk for you.’ It’s a 30 minute walk, for four and a half blocks, and once the walk concludes, there is an honor ceremony where we recognize all branches of the service.”
And that is the entire purpose of this event, and how it first got started, she added.
“The actual event has been in Winter Haven for four years running,” Brown said. “It came about as a way to remember what happened on 9-11, because people were forgetting. We were kind of starting to go back into our complacent mode, and not recognize all the changes that came about after 9-11.”
Four suicide attacks were made on Sept. 11 2001, coordinated to strike in New York City and Washington D.C. Hijackers piloted two planes into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center complex in New York City and the Pentagon in Arlington, Va. Nearly 3,000 people died in the attacks.
In 2004, the leader of al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, claimed responsibility for the attacks, and the United States responded by launching the War on Terror and invading Afghanistan in a successful effort to topple the Taliban. In May 2011, after years in hiding, bin Laden was located and killed in Pakistan.
The attacks, Brown said, also claimed the lives of some of the first responders who went to the scene of the two disasters.
“That affected many in law enforcement and all of our first responders,” she said. “The enemy is totally different today. We have to look at it in a totally different light now. It’s not just guns a-blazing or knives swinging around. It could easily be a biological attack. We’ve had to change our own focus. There’s just so many aspects to this. We never thought we’d be attacked on our own soil.”
Although this is the kind of event that should be held nationally, Brown said, establishing a special ceremony like this one was a way to honor local law enforcement and first responders in Polk County.
“We have speakers from the law enforcement side and the firefighters side, and these people who will speak were in the profession prior to 9-11, and then after 9-11, and they’re able to bring this around and show what is different in the way they approach things today,” Brown said. “We’re fighting a war, not only against criminals, but we’re also fighting a war against people who may not agree with what law enforcement and the military are doing. There are so many groups out there that are anti-government and anti-military, and that is felt by anyone who wears a uniform – anyone. These men and women have to go into every situation not knowing what the attack is going to be.”
For more information about the event, contact the Winter Haven Police Department at 863-295-5905.
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