About 250 people at Lonoke stopped Wednesday for a time to remember the victims and events of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The ceremony was held at the Lonoke Flag Plaza, itself dedicated to “Those who gave their lives for liberty,” in 2002.
Lonoke Area Chamber of Commerce event coordinator Bill Ryker acted as master of ceremony, prayer was led by the Rev. Derek Walker; remarks were by Lt. Col. Tom Lankford, Little Rock Air Force Base community liaison; Taps was performed by Sgt. David Hixson; Shane Hamilton sang “God Bless the U.S.A.”
Little Rock Air Force Base Honor Guard and the Lonoke High School band led by Patrick Matarazzo, took part in the ceremony.
Members of the Lonoke County Sheriff’s Office, Lonoke Police Department, Lonoke Volunteer Fire Department, Southern Paramedic, and Lonoke High School Army Jr. ROTC, were also at the ceremony.
“Twelve years ago, we were all in shock seeing the horrific events unfolding on our televisions,” Ryker remarked. The attacks on the towers of the World Trade Center, on the Pentagon at Washington, D.C., and the accounts of the crash of United Airlines Flight 93, changed the nation, Ryker recalled.
“That day our war on terror began with patriots’ blood … Thousands of lives were lost that day, and many brave heroes were born,” Ryker remarked.
Lankford, in his remarks, said that while the time marked remembering those who died, it is as important to remember how America responded.
“None of us could imagine that 12 years later, we would still be engaged in conflicts born from that act of evil,” Lankford said.
“However, the attacks brought us together as a nation, and displayed America’s resilience and unity. That day brought out the best in many Americans,” he said.
Not only should the deaths be remembered, and the first responders honored, but the also the “exemplary service and deep sacrifices of our armed forces,” Lankford said.
Sept. 11, 2001 created a new generation of warriors, many of whom were small children when the nation was attacked, he said.
“These volunteer warriors made a conscious decision to serve during a time of war,” Lankford said. In the past 12 years, more than two million have deployed to battle, some of them multiple times, he said.
The service of all of them, especially those who died in the battles, should honored as well as families left behind, he said.
The families of those who died “know all too well the price of freedom,” Lankford said.
But perhaps the true mark of victory in the war on terror is found in what Americans do every day, Lankford said.
“The attacks were not just against physical targets, they were against our very way of life. Our enemies would love nothing more than to know they have forever altered this nation and have divided us as a people,” Lankford said.
“By going about your daily business, without fear, by being active in your community, by raising children who love this country, and have the opportunity to be anything they wish to be, you defeat our enemies.
“By living as happy, productive Americans — you defeat our enemies … by remembering we are all Americans, you defeat our enemies.”