WE CAME. We listened. We prayed. We remembered.
This afternoon my husband and I were among perhaps 100 individuals who gathered outside the county courthouse at the Rice County Veterans Memorial in Faribault to remember September 11, 2001.
As traffic whizzed by on busy Fourth Street, aging veterans stood or sat, their heads bowed in quiet contemplation.
Representatives of local law enforcement and emergency personnel stood attentively.
Six-year-old Dakota, son of Faribault American Legion Post 43 Commander and Desert Storm veteran Kirk Mansfield, perched on his mother Paula’s lap on the courthouse steps clutching an American flag. Too young to have lived through this day, he is learning about 9/11 from his parents, from ceremonies like those held today.
We are all still learning, experiencing and understanding how that attack on our nation 10 years ago has affected us, changed our thinking, our perspectives on life.
“Freedom is our greatest asset and our greatest export,” former Sheriff Richard Cook, who has been active in expanding the veterans’ memorial, said. “Freedom will live and flourish.”
Veteran and chaplain Roger Schuenke led the crowd in prayer: “May the faith of our fathers guide, protect and sustain our people.”
But it was the names read by Kirk Mansfield and American Legion Auxiliary representative Louise Flom that most impacted me, that caused me to pause, to settle onto the lawn of the courthouse with my camera in my lap and to listen, just listen, instead of photographing the scene.
For nearly 10 minutes the pair read the names of 94 Minnesotans who have been killed in action since 9/11:
Chester W. Hosford of Hastings, Corey J. Goodnature of Clarks Grove, Brent W. Koch of Morton, Randy W. Pickering of Bovey, Edward J. Herrgott of Shakopee, Andrew J. Kemple of Cambridge…
Familiar names, like Jesse M. Lhotka of Alexandria (originally from Appleton), David F. Day of Saint Louis Park (originally from Morris) and Jason G. Timmerman of Cottonwood/Tracy—all National Guard members killed on February 21, 2005, in Iraq, and whose families I interviewed several years ago for a feature published in Minnesota Moments magazine.
I remembered how speaking with Lhotka’s widow had been one of the most emotionally-challenging interviews I’d ever done in my journalism career.
This I thought as Commander Mansfield and Flom read for nearly 10 minutes. Ninety-four men whose families grieve.
This is how I remembered 9/11 today, by honoring those who have given their lives for freedom.
AND THEN ON THE WAY HOME from the courthouse, I stopped at the Faribault Fire Department to photograph the memorial there honoring the New York City firefighters who died in the Twin towers.
TO BACKTRACK EVEN FURTHER in my day, when my husband and I were at a local nursing home leading a morning church service, I insisted that the eight of us gathered there sing “America, the Beautiful.”
I found verse 3 especially fitting for this day when we as Americans pause in our lives to remember September 11, 2001:
“O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved,
And mercy more than life!
America! America! May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness
And every gain divine!”
© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling