Watertown Mayor Mike Jennings welcomed the crowd at noon and noted the increased involvement Watertown High School had in the annual event this year with principal Jeff Luttrell as guest speaker, as well as performances by the Watertown High School choir and band, both under the direction of Scott Corley.
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“Our school is very well represented,” said Jennings.
Following the choir’s singing of the national anthem, Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto offered remarks before he led a prayer.
“Sept. 11, 2001 was a day that changed our world and the way that we look at it forever,” Hutto said. “Today, as we gather together on the anniversary of 9-11 attacks, we pause and remember. I can’t help but ask the question, ‘Why are you here’ and what your answer would be to that question. For many today, it serves as a reminder of where you were or what you were doing when time seemed to stand still.”
After an introduction from Jennings, Luttrell spoke to those gathered Monday.
“When I accepted this, I began to think this weekend about that day,” Luttrell said. “There are very few events in our lives on a personal basis – our marriage, our religious commitments, our children’s births – those mean something to us. They never leave our minds. But from a collective standpoint of our entire nation, those events get even smaller.
“That morning of 9-11 was a very beautiful morning, if you remember, in Watertown. As I thought back, I began to remember, as drove to work, how beautiful the sky was. At that time, I was a history teacher at the old high school…When I came out into the hallway to do hall duty, a young man – he was the first person I noticed – he came running at me and said, ‘Have you heard?’ I said, ‘What are you talking about?’ He said, ‘America has been attacked.’ And I remember saying, ‘No. No way.’ And he grabbed me and said, ‘Turn on your TV, it’s on TV.’
“At that moment when we clicked on that screen, that vision of the Twin Towers and the fire, that will never leave us. We will always remember where we were at.”
Norene resident Ken Kackley rounded out the event’s speakers with his own recollection of Sept. 11. Kackley, a veteran and 27-year volunteer firefighter, worked as a volunteer mounted ranger at Cedarville State Park in Maryland. He said he saw the plane just before it crashed into the Pentagon.
“I saw an airplane coming over,” Kackley said. “I said, ‘My land, that guy’s going to hit the trees. What in the world is going on…’ The plane came right over the barn, and it was steady shaking. And about that time, a wall collapsed…I said this plane is going to hit something, somewhere.”
It wasn’t long after Kackley received a page from his chief, and he was called to the Pentagon to offer assistance. On his way, he passed a neighbor he saw earlier in the morning who had died from a heart attack in the chaos of the events.
Kackley said two events in his life shook him like no other. The first was Sept. 11, and the second was when his home burned in June. For both events, he praised first responders for their dedicated service.