The town of Patriot – the only incorporated town in the United States with that patriotic name – held its annual remembrance observance of the September 11th attack on American on Monday night.
The event began at the Patriot Volunteer Firehouse, as emcee Mike Jones welcomed the crowd; and then had a word of prayer. The Color Guard from the VFW and American Legion was on hand for the Pledge of Allegiance and the National Anthem; and then the Color Guard led attendees on a candlelight walk from the firehouse down State Road 156 and then up State Road 250 to the Patriot Memorial Park.
The park has undergone renovations spearheaded by the Patriot Town Board, and Monday night was also a night for the public to see those improvements up close.
The service at the park begin with Jones officially welcoming everyone.
“We come together tonight to remember the terrorist attack on our country on September 11th, 2001,” Jones said. “You are the only people in the United States who are celebrating Patriot Day in a town called Patriot. As a lifetime resident of this community, I’m very proud to say that I’m from Patriot, Indiana. We started the first one, the fire department had the first one and we met over at Harris Park on September 11th, 2002; and we have met every year since then, and I think that’s something to be said for this community.”
Emily Oatman, a young lady living in the Patriot community, sang and performed ‘God Bless America’ and ‘Amazing Grace’ on the guitar.
Jones told the audience that the park is the home of the bell from the Old Patriot School, where it still rings on the hour; and he also noted that the park has a monument to the Patriot Water Company, which is the largest rural water company in the State of Indiana.
At the center of the park is a piece of steel from one of the World Trade Center buildings that fell on 9/11.
“I would be remiss if I didn’t mention George Miller,” Jones said. “He was a longtime member of the fire department, and he worked very hard to get this piece of steel from New York. It was brought in here, they were able to get it erected here in the park; and they’ve added some firemen and a police officer who stand guard, 24-7, over this piece of steel. This park, I think, is a result of a lot of people, looking around here I see several who have helped. This is also where, every year, we all come together on the Fourth of July and help the flags come down, with the help of the color guard from the American Legion and the VFW, we replace the flags every year; and we can say this: ‘Old Glory flies 365 days a year’ here in this flag park.”
Members of the Patriot Volunteer Fire Department came forward and unveiled the newly renovated 9/11 monument, which includes a new plaque honoring those who lost their lives that day.
“In honor of those lost, World Trade Center, New York City, 9-11-2001. 2,997 lost their lives, including the 343 firefighters, 70 police. The Patriot Volunteer Fire Department obtained this 300-pound section of the top plate beam from one of the Twin Towers. Dedicated September 11th, 2011,” the plaque reads.
The guest speaker of the evening was State Representative Randy Frye.
“I can tell you exactly where I was,” Frye said, remembering the day of the attacks 16 years earlier. “I was on duty at the Indianapolis Fire Department, Station 4. I’m a retired Indianapolis firefighter, and most of my adult life I spent in a fire station. I had gone for a run that morning, and when I came in, there were some guys watching the TV, and I saw this tower burning, and I asked them, ‘What movie is that? I haven’t seen this one.’ They said, ‘It’s not a movie, it’s for real.'”
Frye said that he sat with his fellow firefighters, watching the coverage, and a short time later the second plane hit.
“I’m not sure that we knew in the beginning that it wasn’t an accident,” Frye said. “But when the second plane hit, we were absolutely sure that it wasn’t an accident. And then I started to run through my mind, as a fire officer, if I had been on that scene, what would I have been doing? I would have been rushing towards the scene, of course, and our men would have been doing everything they could to get to the fire floor and do everything they could to rescue as many people as possible and handle the fire.”
Frye then reflected on his thoughts as the towers fell.
“I knew, and I’m sick right now thinking about it, how many of my brothers and sisters died in that building, as professional firefighters, running in to try and save the lives of those people,” he said.
Frye said that shortly after the attack, his son, Steve, also a firefighter, was part of a group that went to Ground Zero to help in the recovery efforts.
“When I think back on that day, I think about how I felt,” the representative shared. “So frustrated. So helpless. I could do nothing. I remember called the chief and saying, ‘Can we put an engine out of service and go?’ I just wanted to do something, because I couldn’t stand the thought that these people were dying and I couldn’t do anything about it. I think a part of us died that day, certainly a piece of the fire department died that day. When we suffer a loss, we all lose a little bit.”
But then Frye reminded everyone that there is hope.
“It made me extremely sad,” Frye said of that day, “But then I hear a little girl like Emily, who’s singing and praising God; praising her country; and I think this country is going to be all right. We’ve been through a lot, and each time it makes us stronger.”