By Amy Hope
The air was cool and the skies were clear, just like a beautiful fall day, 20 years ago. Moore County folks gathered on the Square for the inaugural 9/11 Memorial 5k and Memorial Parade. September 11th was the twentieth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York City. American flags and firetrucks were surrounding the courthouse. There were thirteen flags hung in the gazebo to honor the thirteen servicemen and women that were recently killed in Afghanistan. Kevin Sanders, “The Barrel Man”, made barrel heads with each hero’s name. It was the patriotic scene that this little town needed to feel a little better.
Jack Daniels Distillery teamed up with the Moore County Volunteer Fire Department to host this walk/run that honored first responders and veterans. There were 285 participants. This included seasoned athletes as well as energized walkers and kids. Also in the pack were many first responders and veterans that showed up in full gear. Organizer and firefighter John LaCook, invited all current and former firefighters, law enforcement, EMS, and military to participate in full ruck gear for the first 1,980 steps in both the 5K and the parade. This number is equivalent to the number of steps in the World Trade Center that first responders ascended to save lives. LaCook said, “We are asking for anyone who can come show your love and patriotism for all first responders. We would love to have you here. We as Americans need to show love and support right now with the troubling times we are facing in our nation and around the world.” And the town did just that.
Another speaker was beloved Deputy and Veteran, Arthur Barad. He shared his feeling on how proud he is to be an American. “My blood runs red, white, and blue!” he said to a cheering crowd.
Jack Daniel’s and the fire department organized this event to benefit Tunnels to Towers Foundation. This is an organization that, among other great deeds, builds mortgage-free, smart homes for catastrophically injured veterans and first responders. And also homes for Gold Star families; families who have lost a loved one in the line of duty. At the end of 2020, this foundation delivered 250 mortgage-free homes. This meant giving away 250 million dollars. Danny Breyer, a retired New York City Firefighter, is a spokesperson for the foundation and he spoke to the crowd after the race. He gave some first-hand insight about 9-11. His message was the importance to “NEVER FORGET”.
The patriotism of our small town was on full display. Following the race, there was a Memorial Parade. All of the county’s finest vehicles were lined up. There were also decorated trailers with veterans and horseback riders waving American flags. Mayor Bonnie Lewis said of the impressive event. “We are honoring those who lost their lives, those who were first to respond, those who serve to protect us both through military service, and all who work daily to answer the call of 911.”
Marsha Hale, a Jack Daniel organizer, said the success of this event was due to the “dedication and passion our community has for Moore County’s first responders.” She also credits John LaCook. “John was instrumental in getting this event off the ground. He worked so hard to ensure the event was a success
The event was Lynchburg’s first 9/11 Memorial 5k and Memorial Parade. In true Moore County fashion, next year’s gathering will be bigger and better. Lynchburg/Moore County is America’s greatest Small town. This event is bound to be an annual event and will continue to bring out the best in our community.