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Veterans, state officials recall 9/11 attacks during 20th anniversary commemoration

By Natalie Anderson

SALISBURY — Local residents, veterans and elected officials gathered at the Hudson, Miller, Tatum VFW Post Saturday during a 20th anniversary commemoration ceremony to recount experiences witnessing terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

“On this day 20 years ago, on Sept. 10, 246 people went to sleep in preparation for their morning flight,” said VFW Commander Mark Beaver. “Two thousand, six hundred and six people went in preparation for work in the morning, 343 firefighters went to sleep in preparation for the morning shift, 60 police officers went to sleep in preparation for their morning shift. Eight paramedics went to sleep in preparation for their morning shift. None of them saw past 10 a.m. that morning on Sept. 11, 2001.”

Members of the Rowan County Veterans Honor Guard fired rifles three times following a salute and pledge to the American flag. Taps was performed to honor victims of the 9/11 attacks. Veterans Gary Beach and Brian Curtis placed memorial wreaths on either side of a brick structure near the base of the American flag, which was lowered to half-staff.

The event then moved inside, and attendees heard from a handful of veterans, local and state officials and candidates seeking public office. The event was organized by Grayson Haff, a Republican seeking a seat to represent North Carolina’s 13th congressional district in the 2022 election. Haff said he hopes to continue a Sept. 11th commemoration at the VFW in future years.

Dave Childers, a veteran who served in Afghanistan, recalled feeling the need to “do something” despite being too old to re-enlist after serving in the 1980s. He sought a program that trained police officers to serve across the world, and he later worked alongside U.S. Marines and Afghan military members, he said. Childers added that all of the Afghan citizens he worked with and met were hard workers who loved their country and wanted to defeat the Taliban.

Childers also authored a book he said helped him heal called “God Sent the Dog.” Proceeds go to Purple Heart Homes, Inc., a veterans organization in Statesville.

Rowan County Sheriff candidate Greg Hannold also said he felt the need to help in some way after witnessing the events of Sept. 11. But he added that the tragedy reminded him that his role as a police officer at the time was to protect the families of those who deployed to fight on behalf of the U.S.

“I think maybe I was in this profession because when our men and women are over there fighting, their families are here unprotected and I’m that line of defense,” Hannold said. “I felt like I had to have their backs, protect their families from being victimized while they’re away fighting for our freedoms. Me and every other law enforcement officer in the country.”

Brad Potts, another candidate for Rowan County Sheriff in the 2022 race, recalled witnessing the attacks waiting to bring cupcakes to his daughter, who turned 3 on Sept. 11, 2001, for her birthday party at her preschool. Potts was emotional in saying images from that day struck him even more when seeing his daughter and other children celebrate in that moment.

“You’re standing there and looking at your child … and you don’t know when you leave home that day if you’re going to see your family member,” Potts said. “As all those people left in New York when they went to work, they didn’t know if they were going to see their wives, their husbands, their children, parents … you just don’t ever know.”

Potts also said tragedy continued after Sept. 11, 2001, because hundreds have since died from illness linked to exposure at Ground Zero.

Sen. Carl Ford, a Republican who represents the 33rd District, said he had a migraine the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, when he was running his radio channel. He remembers a flood of calls following the collapse of the Twin Towers as well as full churches on the Sundays following Sept. 11. Ford said America needs to get back to God and recited Psalms 9:17, which states, “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.”

Rep. Harry Warren, a Republican representing Rowan County in the N.C. Houe, said his wife, Catherine, was supposed to be at a meeting at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11. She was in Charlotte instead because the meeting was canceled. He called the events of that day “an attack on our way of life,” adding that “the people who did that grossly underestimated” the American people.

“It didn’t demoralize us. It didn’t defeat us. It brought us together,” Warren said. “For all the things that we show in a dressing room window of the world — our political strife between the parties, the social strife that we have — the bottom line comes down to this: you attack us, we are one people … We are the United States of America. And we can fight amongst ourselves — that’s our prerogative. But if you attack my brother or sister, you’ve attacked me.”

Other speakers included Salisbury City Council candidates Nalini Joseph, Jonathan Barbee and Jessica Cloward, Rowan County Sheriff candidate Tommie Cato and District Court Judge candidate Chris Sease.

“In one single moment, life may never be the same as you live and enjoy the breaths you take today and tonight before you go to bed,” Beaver said. “Tonight before you go to bed in preparation for your life tomorrow, kiss the ones you love, snuggle a little tighter and never take one second of y0ur life for granted.”

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.



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