Chattanooga City Council Chairwoman Pam Ladd remembers Sept. 11, 2001, as a warm and sunny day.
“It was beautiful,” she said.
Ten years later, on a day with similar weather, Ladd and other leaders spoke during ceremonies at the riverfront in commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks. Around the region and the nation, crowds gathered to mourn the dead and comfort the living.
At the riverfront event, the UTC Chamber Singers sang the national anthem and the crowd looked up to see Life Force medical helicopters fly over the area.
In the event’s keynote address, U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn, talked about the value of the United States’ diversity.
“We argue; we debate,” he said. “That’s what makes us great.”
Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger, a former Chattanooga fire chief, honored firefighters, police officers and medics everywhere.
“God bless our first responders,” he said.
Members of emergency response departments from across the Chattanooga area attended in uniform. They convoyed to the site down Market Street in their emergency vehicles. Afterward, they gathered to have their photographs taken and to talk to members of the public.
Scott Brinkley, 42, who moved from New York to Chattanooga a year ago, came to the event wearing a New York Fire Department T-shirt and cap.
“It’s nice to see that it’s remembered everywhere across the country,” he said.
He brought his three sons, two of whom were born after the attacks.
“It’s important that they understand and remember,” he said.
The ceremony at the riverfront wasn’t the only Chattanooga-area event commemorating the attacks. Earlier, at Camp Jordan in East Ridge, people honored military and first responders at a Freedom Walk.
The crowd, including many veterans and others with military connections, observed a moment of silence and put their hands on their hearts during the Pledge of Allegiance.
The main speaker was retired U.S. Army Gen. Ron Griffith, a LaFayette, Ga., native who served in the Vietnam War and first Gulf War. He spoke about the sacrifices those in the military make.
“We’ve asked them to do a great deal, and we owe them a great deal,” he said.
During the two-mile walk that followed, many participants wore clothing that showed respect to the military and their loved ones. Others had signs naming the people they were walking to honor.
Tonia Kight, 33, decided to come to the walk because her brother is serving the Army.
“He’s doing what he’s supposed to do,” the Flat Rock, Ala., resident said as she made her way to the start of the walk.
Vietnam War veteran James Thompson, from Pikeville, Tenn., said that without the men and women who serve in the military, Americans wouldn’t have freedom and democracy. “I’m enjoying their freedom, too,” he said.
East Ridge City Councilman Denny Manning said he was proud to see the walk in his hometown. “This is the greatest honor East Ridge could hold,” he said.
The walk was one of many nationwide and was sponsored by the Tennessee/Kentucky chapter of Operation Homefront, an organization that provides emergency assistance to wounded warriors and military families.
After the sun went down, on a grassy hill containing flags to commemorate those killed in the terror attacks, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga held a candlelight vigil.
Retired U.S. Army Gen. Burwell “BB” Bell, a UTC alumnus, spoke of the events of the evening of Sept. 11, 2001, hours after the planes crashed into the Twin Towers, the Pentagon and an Pennsylvania field. About 8 p.m. that day, America “knew that she had lost her modern-day sense of innocence,” he said.
Bell went on to say that in the 10 years since the attacks, “our democracy has well survived,” and though the future is uncertain, he knows America is a special country.
The event included the lowering, folding and reraising of the flag, a gun salute and the playing of taps.
People lit candles and paused for a moment of silence, which UTC junior Megan Anderson, 20, appreciated.
The candlelight made it easier to reflect, she said.