A ceremony remembering the 20th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States and recognizing local first responders and public safety officials was held in Bicentennial Park on Saturday.
Officers and volunteers from Jefferson County fire, police and emergency medical services were recognized for their years of service, and Washington Fire Company No. 2 on the year of its 175th anniversary in the same building.
Madison Mayor Bob Courtney expressed appreciation “for the bravery of these heroes” and what they did to protect the nation on Sept. 11, 2001.
Jefferson County resident Kevin Kellems, who was working in the Pentagon serving as a special advisor to the Secretary of Defense on the morning of the attacks, remembered the remarkable dedication and courage he witnessed after a hijacked plane was crashed into the building.
Kellems told of the unity among the civilians and the first responders, and the bravery he saw that day. And not just the tragedy of the day that came with the attacks, but also the triumph that shone through in the way people came together.
“What I witnessed that was most impressive was the unity among the civilians and the uniform military, the firefighters and the first responders at the crash site,” Kellems said. “It was remarkable. They ran to the fire instead of running from the fire.”
Kellems later became the press secretary and communications director for Vice President Dick Cheney, but has since returned home the Jefferson County “to live among you, to learn from you and to be a member of the community.”
Kellems said he remembers 9/11 by wearing the watch that he had on that morning, along with the security credentials he had from the Office of Secretary of Defense.
Kellems reflected on the events of 9/11 by reading Sanskrit proverb from a small black book that he inherited from his father. He said it was part of broader thoughts about “how many of us remain deeply affected by their experiences of 9/11 often seek a semblance of a ‘return to normalcy’ in a variety of ways.”
The proverb, as read by Kellems, says: “Look to this day, for it is life, the very life of life. In its brief course lie all the realities and verities of existence, the bliss of growth, the splendor of action, the glory of power — for yesterday is but a dream, and tomorrow is only a vision, but today, well lived, makes every yesterday a dream of happiness and every tomorrow a vision of hope. Look well, therefore, to this day.”
Indiana State Fire Marshal Joel Thacker was on hand to present Washington No. 2 Fire Department with the state’s meritorious service medal for 175 years of service. Additionally, Courtney presented the fire department with an official proclamation from the city, along with a Congressional proclamation from Congressman Greg Pence.
Madison Fire Chief Bill DeVries also gave special recognition to all Madison firefighters with 40 years or more of service.
Thacker paid tribute to volunteer firefighters, noting they not only volunteer, but they “pay to do this. They pay financially for doing this. They pay physically for doing this. And they pay mentally for doing this.” He thanked the families of the firefighters for supporting them in their service to the community.
Courtney also expressed his gratitude to all who serve and the work they do for the community. “I am proud of each and every one of you,” he noted.