Campaign News

First Responders’ Sacrifices Remembered on the Anniversary of 9/11

Dothan Eagle

During an annual remembrance of the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, local law enforcement officials and firefighters urged the community to stand ready and stay vigilant in case of future terrorist attacks.

The event, which took place in Veterans’ Park in Dothan, was organized by the Patriot Guard Riders in remembrance of the first responders who lost their lives during the attacks, as well as other victims and their families.

Jimmy Shiver, district ride captain for the Patriot Guard Riders, said the group started the memorial as a way to remind people of the dangerous work done by first responders, such as firefighters, law enforcement officers and EMTs.

“They were the first ones on the scene at 9/11, and a lot of them lost their lives,” Shiver said. “And they’re still losing their lives. I just wanted (to thank them) even from dispatchers right on up…They’re going to be the first ones to respond. And I’m going to tell you what, if I have trouble, I’d like to see these guys right by my side backing me up.”

Houston County Sheriff Donald Valenza, one of the speakers at the event, quoted the National Law Enforcement Officials Memorial in Washington D.C.

“Heroes never die,” he said. “We must never forget the sacrifice our heroes gave on 9/11, 13 years ago.”

It was the sixth year the group has held the ceremony, which, this year, came on the heels of President Barack Obama’s Wednesday night State of the Union address.

During the address, Obama said the U.S. is working with other countries to “degrade and ultimately destroy” Islamic State extremists in Iraq and Syria – a terrorist group that has further destabilized the Middle East and threatened the United States.

Many of the speakers at Thursday’s event also talked about the Islamic State in Iraq and cautioned the public about new terrorist threats to the U.S.

“Over the past several months, we have continued to see an increase in threats and acts of murder by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, also known as ISIS,” said Dothan Fire Chief Larry Williams. “Make no mistake about it: These thugs present a major threat to the U.S. Homeland, and we must all continue to do our part in maintaining the public safety.”

Dothan Police Chief Greg Benton quoted Todd Beamer, a civilian who died trying to stop the terrorist hijacking on the doomed United Flight 93.

“I will also reference the quotes…in remembrance of the fallen: If we are ever confronted by this insidious enemy again, we are under attack. Let’s roll.”

Valenza also cautioned first responders and civilians alike to “stand ready,” in the face of extremist groups.

Other speakers at the event included Alabama State Sen. Harri Anne Smith, Dothan Mayor Mike Schmitz and former VFW State Commander Ed Pritchard.

Nearly 3,000 people died in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. Of those, more than 400 were first responders.

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