Several 9/11 memorial events were held in Rutherford County last week, with participants honoring not only those who died in the 2001 terrorist attacks but all service members and emergency responders.

Students and workers at Tennessee College of Applied Technology-Murfreesboro on Tuesday planted U.S. flags in front of the school in honor of the victims of the World Trade Center attacks, said Surgical Technology Instructor Shera Wilson. They have done this for at least seven years.

Middle Tennessee State University hosted its annual 9/11 Remembrance at the Miller Education Center.

Speakers included VA Health System director and retired U.S. Navy captain Jennifer Vedral-Baron; Tennessee Higher Education executive director Mike Krause; and Murfreesboro Mayor Shane McFarland. Retired Lt. Gen. Keith M. Huber, MTSU senior adviser for veterans and leadership initiatives, introduced speakers and welcomed the audience.

A quote from each speaker follows.

Keith M. Huber

“Take time to talk to some of the people here today. Ask yourself, ‘Where was I (when 9/11 happened)? What was on my day planner? How it changed my life forever.’ … If this was your last day (to live), who would you call and say, ‘I forgive you’ or ‘I love you.’ “

Shane McFarland

“Leadership is about making decisions no one else truly wants to make. Leadership’s about doing things no one else wants to do. About doing the things that you do when people aren’t watching.”

Twenty-two emergency responders died this year from 9/11 complications, he said. In the weeks after 9/11, many people displayed flags.

“It shouldn’t be every year or two days of the year … that we have our American pride,” and he pledged to support emergency providers in the community.

Mike Krause

Krause, a veteran of Afghanistan, said the first soldier he knew who died in the war was Sgt. Gene Vance, a cryptographist. He quoted Isaiah 6:8: “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

The same was true for emergency responders at Ground Zero, Krause said.

Jennifer Vedral-Baron

As a command officer during the war after 9/11, she lost six sailors serving under her, and she spoke about the difficulty in sending them into harm’s way.

“Today really is a celebration of the American spirit … that we could have cowered … but we did not,” Vedral-Baron said.

Rodney Atkins

The country music artist, who has performed on several USO tours, attended MTSU’s ceremony and announced he will hold a concert on Sept. 11, 2020 to benefit the Charlie and Hazel Daniels Veterans and Military Family Center as well as Operation Song, which helps veterans share their experiences through songwriting.

The concert will be held at the Murphy Center. More details will be announced by Veterans Day.

“We will hold this concert one year from today and it will be a tribute to our active-duty troops, our veterans, our first responders serving in our cities and states,” Atkins said. “And I will be asking some of my friends to join me on stage and contribute their time and music to the cause.”

Sheriff’s Office ceremony

The Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office held its annual 9/11 Remembrance Ceremony dedicated to the first responders, military members and civilians who died on 9/11. John Hood, MTSU director of government and community affairs, was the master of ceremonies.

Sheriff Mike Fitzhugh welcomed the crowd. Rebecca Himes sang the national anthem and Rolling Thunder members raised the POW flag and performed “Taps”.

Bill Allen, a Murfreesboro native who served as a U.S. Navy corpsman during the D-Day invasion, spoke about his military experience. His LST523 Landing Ship carried 145 U.S. Navy personnel delivering supplies and picking up casualties. It hit a mine and sunk during the Battle of Omaha Beach, killing 117 sailors.

Minutes prior to the sinking, a soldier invited him to sit in a truck that was tied down on the ship, he said. When the ship began sinking, he had to decide whether to stay on board or jump. A friend was on a raft and encouraged him to jump; he got on the raft and helped to rescue others.

He said he grew up in church but had to decide if luck had saved him or if God had. He said he could have become an atheist, but he believes God saved him.

La Vergne ceremony

La Vergne police officers and firefighters gathered at La Vergne City Hall at 6:26 a.m. last Wednesday to lower the U.S. flag to half-staff and observe a moment of silence as a group.

The officers also ceremonially lowered the U.S. flag at the La Vergne Public Library to half-staff. The flags were returned to full-staff at 7 p.m.

Smyrna ceremony

The Town of Smyrna’s Fire Department Honor Guard participated in the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office 9/11 Memorial Ceremony in Murfreesboro.

Dan Epright contributed to this report.

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