NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — On a crisp September morning, hundreds were present in downtown Nashville, but their minds were marching to the past.
"Just to remember," said Tim Hayes, who stood on the sidewalk as a procession honoring 9/11 walked down Third Avenue. "We had a son in the Army at the time and once you got past the horror of everything going on, you thought -- oh now he’s going to war."
Nashville firefighters, police officers, elected officials and everyday neighbors walked in lockstep -- starting just beyond the Christmas Day bomb site on Second Avenue, around to Third Ave and ending at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center -- all to retrace the steps of September 11, 2001.
"It’s not color, creed, political party or anything, you just get together and help each other," said Hayes.
Twenty years later, time has marched on but the pain still lingers. "In the days after September the 11th, we were left to console the inconsolable, to explain the unexplainable, to make sense out of the senselessness, and even today we strive to find hope in moments of hopelessness," said Tim Holmes, Nashville Fire's district chief.
Metro Police Chief John Drake reflected on how many first responders made the ultimate sacrifice to rescue others who needed help. "Let us always remember the 60 police officers, the 343 firefighters, the eight EMTs and the one fire patrolmen who gave their lives in service to others that day," said Drake.
While Nashville is hundreds of miles from where terror struck, there's an unmistakable feeling it could have been our firemen, our police officers, if Nashville had been next. "The same awesome dedicated public servants are here in Nashville keeping us safe. And when Nashville needs you, you show up and you are keeping us safe," said Nashville Mayor John Cooper.
The hope of this ceremony, and others like it across the country, is that, as we march our minds back to the emotions of 9/11, we never forget the sacrifices. "As people ran out of those buildings scared for their lives, the first responders charged in," said James Smallwood, president of the Nashville Fraternal Order of Police.
"To the families of those who perished, the loss you have endured drives us in our mission, today and every day," said Nashville Fire Chief William Swan.
But organizers also hope we remember how the moment brought us all together. "The attacks of September 11 were intended to break our spirits, instead, we have emerged stronger and more united," said Chief Swan.