Emergency personnel attend 9/11 service
By Shavonne Potts
SALISBURY – In 2001, Brandon Jones was just 7 years old. He was a second-grader at Morgan Elementary School when terrorists flew airplanes into the World Trade Center.
Today Jones, 18, is just three months into a new career path – Liberty firefighter.
Jones joined, he said, in order to be a part of the brotherhood.
Jones was one of many emergency services workers who attended the annual 9/11 memorial service at the Salisbury-Rowan Firefighters Memorial on Tuesday.
“It makes me feel proud to be able to wear this uniform,” he said.
Jones recalled what happened 11 years ago as he and other students were having a math lesson. A teacher’s assistant walked into the classroom and said to turn on the television. The students watched the news for much of the day, Jones recalled.
“I didn’t really understand much,” he said.
The students later learned about the terrorist attacks and what happened that day, he said.
Jones said he’s appreciative of what all firefighters have to do.
The memorial service began at 9:30 Tuesday morning when uniformed officers assembled at the firefighters memorial site.
County Emergency Services Director Frank Thomason was the keynote speaker. He talked about how many lives were changed on what many thought would be just an ordinary day.
“What shocked us more was that it was our way of life that was attacked,” he said.
Thomason said the memorial service was a way to remember the “American spirit that burns in all of us.”
He later recalled what he was doing that morning when he first heard the news. Thomason initially thought the incident was minor until communications supervisor Sherry Earnhardt detailed what happened.
Thomason said he’d never forget the expression on Earnhardt’s face.
“Her expression just said it all,” Thomason said.
Throughout the course of that next hour, the two watched as the events unfolded.
“It’s a life-changing event. It’s something we certainly will never forget,” he said.
City Councilman Pete Kennedy recalled during the ceremony receiving a phone call from his daughter, who was in New York during the terrorist attacks.
County Commissioner Chad Mitchell spoke of how emergency services personnel wake up every day not knowing if this day will be a regular day.
Mitchell read from a proclamation from the county declaring Sept. 11 Patriot Day.
Salisbury Fire Chief Bob Parnell said he considered it profound that there were some firefighters in attendance at the ceremony who were 9 or 10 years old at the time.
Parnell said it’s the older firefighter’s duty, responsibility and mission to make sure, “those firefighters, the younger firefighters as they come through, don’t forget the sacrifice” of those who risked their lives that day to save others.
“It’s great to see support from everybody. I hope it continues,” said Eddie Cress, assistant chief of the Rowan County Rescue Squad.
Cress said he’d love to see more people from the community join them in commemorating the day.
He said the ceremony was a celebration of the life that was lived and a way to remember.
Debra Cress was at the event to honor friend Richard Franklin Graham. Graham was a dairy farmer by trade, but supported the Cleveland Community Fire Department.
He died in 2011 of a stroke, Cress said.
She said no one knows when their seemingly normal day will be their last day alive.
Cress said she respects public servants.
“They do something for you every day, whether you are directly associated or not,” she said.
Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253.
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