LIVINGSTON – Members of government and clergy gathered at the Livingston Parish Council Chamber Sept. 11 to commemorate the worst foreign attack on American soil.
“Cry Out America!” paid homage to the first-responders and more than 3,000 people who lost their lives in attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington on what had been a quiet, sunny Tuesday morning before the ambush.
The event focused on the need for unity among Americans, support for first-responders and urgency to maintain spirituality.
“In this time, we remember devastation from 2001 attacks, it’s time to celebrate the lives of brave men and women who lost their lives trying to save the people in the towers,” Livingston Parish President Layton Ricks said. “Firefighters were running into buildings through flames, fumes and dust, but God instilled in them the ability to save as many lives as possible.”
Unity – the component which heled Livingston Parish through the days and weeks after the Great Flood of 2016 – kept Americans strong in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, he said.
“America has been attacked by evil spirits, natural disasters, and this year through devastation from hurricanes, but one thing in common has happened: it proved we are all united and one in the same,” Ricks said. “Did these disasters ask what color they are?; how much money they have?; what’s the status in life?; who are you? Absolutely not.
“We are united as one people in America,” he said. “If we don’t do that again, we’ll be in trouble. It’s time we remember, so that hopefully our kids will appreciate us as leaders.”
The nation needs to focus more on unity as challenging times lie ahead, Ricks said.
“Nobody knows how long this world will last, but it won’t get better,” he said. “We need to pray for our leaders and first-responders and respect the positions they’re in, ethically and spiritually. There’s a lot of hurt, anger and devastation out there.”
Livingston Parish Schools Superintendent Rick Wentzel posed the question as to why disasters and grief usually serve as the only components that bring unity.
He compared it to the feelings among residents in the aftermath of the 2016 flood.
“Last August, as we were surrounded from the heartache last August, our communities stepped up with food, water and it didn’t matter who the people were,” Wentzel said. “I keep wondering and thinking why we have to rely on disasters to bring us together.
“We need to remember those little children, the little bitty children, who look at us and love us regardless of who we are or regardless of our mistakes, all because they have the eyes of God,” he said. “God understands that we have problems and He still loves us. We should be like the children of this world.”
Denham Springs Mayor Gerard Landry emphasized the need for faith, something which has carried residents through the worst of times.
“We’re here to remember Sept. 11, and to remember that every time there’s a need, God is with us, as He was there last August when the pulled us through the flood,” he said. “We have something to be proud of: We’re God-fearing people and we feel it in our hearts. We need to keep everybody who needs help in our prayers.”
Sgt. Gene Higginbotham of the Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Office recalled the heightened patriotism and respect toward military and first responders in the aftermath of 9/11.
He also remembers how the praise and appreciation slowly waned.
“I remember seeing so many American flags that flew,” Higginbotham said. “I was in uniform, and remember all the people who would hug me and tell me how much they appreciate my service as a first-responder. Unfortunately, that slowly went away.
“It’s a true disservice to people – not only first responders, but the military who give us the freedom we have,” he said.
Higginbotham also recalled the images of firefighters rushing furiously through the scorched towers to save lives.
“We all saw the images of them rushing up the stairs,” he said. “Other people were running down, and yet there were the firefighters rushing up the stairs without concern for their own safety.”
Livingston Parish Councilman Garry Talbert, who served as master of ceremonies for the event, emphasized the need to keep God at the center of life.
“I couldn’t imagine what I was seeing that day, and like me, a lot of Americans wondered how our lives would be affected and how our lives would change now that we had the first attack on American soil,” he said. “Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they can’t shatter the steel of our American resolve.
“As long as we put God in our lives in good times and bad, we will continue to possess the steel in American resolve,” Talbert said.
The event also included soloist Morgan Schroeder of Walker High School, Sammi Rushing of Live Oak United Methodist Church, Roger May of Revival Temple, and Emily and Ella Otken of Denham Springs High School.
Ministers included Constance Saizon of Hughes and St. Landry UMC, Val Taylor of Life Church, Mike and Susan Barnet of As One United in Christ Fellowship, Jesse Bourgoyne of Accountability Church, Ronald Sutton of New Zion Baptist Church in Denham Springs and Ebenezer Baptist Church in Baton Rouge and Wes Courtney of Revival Temple.
Also participating in the event were Associate Supreme Court Justice Jeff Hughes, Army National Guard Lt. Col. (Ret) Arthur Perkins of the Denham Springs City Council.
Other groups participating included Sonya Collins’s eighth-grade class from Frost Middle School and the color guard from the Walker High School Marine Corps JROTC.