Madison remembers Community joins together to recall Sept. 11
story by michael prochaska
photos by angelina bellebuono
“I’m in the reflection of what happened on Sept. 11,” said Nicholas Baddour, 14, a Boy Scout with Troop 91, as he stood at the edge of Madison Town Park before greeting residents with a firm handshake, solemn eyes and a folded bulletin printed with the World Trade Center peaking out of a darkened New York City skyline and the words “We Remember” written over an American flag fluttering above the towers.
But Baddour can’t remember. And he can’t say where he was that day. “Texas,” he said, with a shrugged guess. Any more specific and Baddour would be reciting what he had learned, not recollected from memory.
Baddour spoke for his generation and dozens of children at the Sept. 11 service, held at the park Sunday afternoon, when he said he was in the reflection of that day.
“It’s still difficult to comprehend, only being 14. I wish I could honestly understand everything that happened during it, but I can’t,” said Hannah Simpson, who was in a Kindergarten class 10 years ago. “I can’t comprehend it; I still can’t grasp how someone can do something like that.”
Boy Scout Sean Smith was in fifth grade when American Airlines Flight 11 struck the first tower. The most vivid memory he has is that of a teacher running down the hallway telling other classrooms to turn on the TV. Smith watched but it didn’t register. He saw the United Airlines Flight 175 hit the South Tower and could only ask "Why?"
But most of the scouts in Troop 91 were too young to process what had happened. Sept. 11 would instigate a war; result in the creation of the Patriot Act and Homeland Security; and inspire writers, reporters and filmmakers to investigate its repercussions. To grow up in a post-Sept. 11 world, it meant Sept. 11 became a crux in American history, and some of the children at the service were born into that history.
Rhonda Amerson Smith had just buried her father the month prior to Sept. 11. A retired Navy Seal, Ronald R. Amerson’s last words were “Be strong,” and still resonate through Smith’s efforts to continue his legacy. “I think one of the things we’re seeing now is people pulling together. You see complete strangers doing random acts of kindness for other people,” she said. “So why does it take a tragedy to pull that out of our soul? I think we should be doing that every day. To defeat our enemy, we have to show that America is resilient, and when you say America, you have to break it down to little pieces – we in Madison are resilient, we in Atlanta are resilient, and we in our communities, and in the street, in neighborhoods and in schools.”
In a letter to the editor published in the Sept. 8, 2011 issue of Morgan County Citizen, Smith wrote “Remember to thank your ‘heroes’ if they are still living and also ‘be’ a hero to those you serve daily.” A hero to his family and country, Ronald Amerson was there to greet the victims of Sept. 11 in heaven, Smith said.
Police Officer Kristine Murrell had just left the Rockdale County Sheriff’s Office when she got the call. “Each community needed us to make sure they feel safe,” she said. “Even in small towns like this people are going to start worrying about the buckles of their safety.”
Days later, Murrell set up a blood drive through the Red Cross but wished she could have done more. “We would have done anything to help anybody. Honestly, it sounds sick and even twisted, but part of me wished I was there so that I could do something to help.”
Murrell had been in law enforcement for only three years at the time of the attack.
Conyers resident Anna Caldwell, 81, couldn’t sleep Saturday night. The television specials were too upsetting to permit rest, yet her eyes remained glued.
Caldwell frequents Madison on Sunday afternoons for its rich history, but this particular Sunday it was more of an excuse to get out of her apartment and distance herself from the haunting video footage. She befell the remembrance service in Madison Town Park by coincidence. It satisfied Caldwell to see Murrell and other police officers and firefighters take part in the service.
“Sometimes they’re the first ones cut when there’s a shortage of money, and that’s very sad too because they deserve every penny they earn because they’re putting their life on the line every single day. And then they called or they don’t get called – you never know because they’re there to react when they’re needed. So that’s a positive, and you do have to look for the positives.”
Despite years of war, Caldwell said Americans triumphed through strength in the aftermath of the tragedy. “I do not want terrorists to have one particle of any satisfaction for what they did to our country,” she said. “As a citizen of the United States I resent they got any satisfaction.”
Caldwell believes religion is the cure, not the cause to the terrorists’ motives. “I’m sure that hereafter, if they have any religious background at all, they will feel what they did,” she said.
Caldwell believes we must “not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good,” as told in Romans 12:21, a Bible verse Amerson had memorized before he died.
Madison Presbyterian Church Pastor Gary Cecil had given sermons on the subject of Sept. 11 in the past. Nobody in his congregation had been direct victims of the attack, nor were any of the approximately 3,000 people lost names that he would recognize.
But they still weren’t just names.
“We remember that day because we lost brothers and sisters that day. I didn’t know any of them, but they are my brothers and sisters,” he said, following a bagpipe-led liturgy of “Amazing Grace.”
More than 100 attendees sang in unison the words to the third verse, “Through many dangers, toils and snares/we have already come/T'was Grace that brought us safe thus far/and Grace will lead us home.”
“Come here now in Madison, come in Shanksville, Pa., come in Washington D.C., come in New York City,” said Associate Pastor of Madison Presbyterian Church David Powers in his closing prayer, a calling for God’s Grace.
“And always remember.”
The following is an excerpt from “A Litany of Remembrance and Hope,” read by Madison Baptist Church Youth Minister Doug Adkins on September 11, 2011.
Adkins: When we remember the stockbrokers, office workers, maintenance workers, bystanders, window-washers, and all the others who worked together so valiantly to help each other, we can say together,
All: We remember great courage.
Adkins: When we recall firefighters who rushed upstairs as most everyone else was racing out, we can say together,
All: We remember selfless service.
Adkins: When we recall the police officers who stood to protect and defend the people and performed their duties until the towers came crashing down on top of them, we say together,
All: We remember selfless sacrifice for the safety of others.
Adkins: When we recall the thousands of workers, women and men, old and young, single and married, American-born and those born in countries around the world who did not escape the buildings, we can say together,
All: We remember the loss of human life.
Adkins: When we recall those citizens who rushed to help, did all they could to help, we say together,
All: We remember and give thanks for dutiful commitment to those in distress.
Adkins: When we recall the people who stood in line at the nation’s blood banks to make living donations from their very bodies, we can say together,
All: We give thanks for those who live on to pass on life and love.
Printed in the September 15, 2011 edition