by Crystal Gottfried
“For the sake of ourselves and others,” nearly 300 people gathered at Canyon Lake Dam on Monday morning to remember and honor those who lost their lives because of the horrific act of terrorism in New York City five years ago on September 11.
Pastor Jim Roberts of the Canyon Lake United Methodist Church opened the commemorative ceremony with a prayer for “strength for our leaders, and our men and women in the military.”
“We ask for a blessing for protection for our community service leaders,” Roberts prayed in reference to the contingents of Sheriff’s deputies and Fire/EMS personnel who were gathered in support of Canyon Lake’s first Freedom Walk. “And we pray that peace will have its way in the world.”
Comal County Judge Danny Scheel acknowledged the citizens who had assembled to “do something in support of our country, our leaders, and our military.”
“Thank you all for joining as a community to commemorate an event that has changed the way we act, live and think,” he said. “9/11 has taught us a valuable lesson to be vigilant and to care about those who have suffered a loss. We gather here to extend our sincere appreciation to those who were there to assist the victims of this tragedy.”
Texas State Senator Jeff Wentworth addressed the group gathered at the south end of Canyon Dam with his thoughts as he watched the planes striking the Twin Towers on that fateful day in 2001.
“Like you, I watched in stunned horror as terrorists trashed our country,” he said. “I believe that these depraved individuals who made war on this country by targeting innocent Americans is reprehensible.”
Wentworth urged his fellow citizens to once again fly their American flags as they did in the days following the disaster.
“I urge you to fly your American flag today, and every day, in special support for those who are fighting for our right to do this,” he said. “The greatest effort we can make is to continue to show those who gave their lives and are now fighting that we support them. God bless America!”
Local musician Robert Maxwell Case led everyone in singing the Star Spangled Banner and the Honor Guard led the procession on their march across the top of the dam toward where J. B. Henry waited, preparing to play “Amazing Grace” on his bagpipes.
As the people walked, they quietly talked about why they decided to come to the Freedom Walk.
Carol Bryant came because “I lost my brother in Vietnam, and this is my way to show my spirit to our military and police and our firefighters that we care.”
Jim Lawless said that he came “to honor those who serve in Iraq and to honor those who fell on 9/11.”
Maisie Barry could not help crying as she said that she was here “to honor all those people who died in the Twin Towers and in Washington, and on the planes.”
“I sat there the whole day when it happened, and I could only watch what was happening on the television,” she said gesturing with her hands that she was still very emotional it. “I couldn’t do anything that day, but I thought I would come here today to show my support.”
Phillip Thomason said he came today because “two of my dearest friends asked me to come up here; you know who I’m talking about; Patti Johnson and Belinda Frisk.”
“What they have organized here is absolutely wonderful,” he said.
Local “military mom” Sharon Bryce, whose son, Army Sgt. Brandon Rodgers has been the subject of news articles in the Times Guardian, called Patti Johnson two weeks ago to ask her to attend the Freedom Walk in San Antonio. Patti got together with Belinda and had this first Canyon Lake Freedom Walk organized within two days.
At the other side of the dam, the Honor Guard reached bagpiper Henry, and strains of the heart-wrenching, “Amazing Grace” hushed the people as they moved to the sides of the walkway to clear a path for the soldiers as they turned and lead the marchers back toward Overlook Park.
Comal County Sheriff’s Deputies and Canyon Lake Fire/EMS forces were close behind them.
President George W. Bush was right. The American people are resilient and will persevere in light of the tragedy that beset our country five years. We will honor our fallen heroes, and we will carry on.
As the walkers headed back to the start of the march, the general conversation began to turn toward local events and family matters.
We could hear Peaches Kelly singing “God Bless America” in her strong, well-known voice. Then a moment of prayerful silence; and a soldier played “Taps”.
The groups of people on the dam stood in silent groups, heads held high, eyes looking straight ahead, hands folded respectfully, all listening intently. One could hear a small child being “shushed.”
There was truly a feeling of peace and serenity that could be felt as a wave moving through the crowd – and everyone joined Peaches in singing, “O beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain, for purple mountain majesties above the fruited plain! America! America! God shed his grace on thee and crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea!”
We were now wearing our hearts on our sleeves and we held our flags up high.
As the crowd dispersed to individual pursuits, people thanked each other for this fantastic event - this healing; and EMS came instantly to the rescue of one man who collapsed from the heat.
He’s going to be fine.