“Why are we taking the time to have a ceremony? Why are we here?” Carter questioned the crowd. “Because, if you are an emergency responder, please stand, if you are in the medical field, military, a teacher, a student, a registered voter, if you believe in America, stand!
“This is why we are here. Because we are still standing. America was not brought to her knees that day. We are standing because we have not forgotten and we still believe in America!”
Carter’s rousing speech followed a tribute performed by the Cass High band and a presentation of the colors followed with Cartersville and Bartow County Fire Joint Honor Guard members marching to the middle of the plaza as the national anthem was performed by the Cartersville Middle School chorus. Cartersville Mayor Matt Santini thanked the public defenders and citizens for the good turnout, noting that he could not say, like other times, that there should be more people as the plaza was full, with an overflow onto bleachers and still leaving others either standing or lounging in their own folding chairs.
Bartow County Fire Chief Craig Millsap encouraged everyone to hold the memory of those lost in the terrorist attacks in New York, Washington D.C., and Shanksville, Pa., in their hearts. Millsap also shared memories of that fateful day, recalling where he was as well as the way things changed. Most noticeably, Millsap said the nature of complaints to the department altered and now he asks “have we forgotten already?”
“We looked around [after that day] to identify possible targets,” he said. “We felt helpless. I promise that we will continue to prepare for the worst and that we will always be there.”
The Fire Joint Honor Guard laid a wreath at a memorial located in the plaza while the Cass High band played “Amazing Grace.” A tolling of the bell of signal 5-5-5 resounded throughout the plaza, echoing off the walls of the Welcome Center, in honor of public servants who had lost their lives in the line of duty.
Cartersville Fire Capt. Tim McClung explained that the signal traditionally represented firefighters returning home after responding to a call. Now, the signal honors those fire, law enforcement and emergency personnel as well as all public servants who have “arrived at their final assignment and made it to their final home.”
Before the closing prayer, the Cartersville Middle chorus honored members of the military by singing an arrangement titled “American Heroes” that included hymns of the U.S. Army, Marines, Navy and Air Force. Their final number, “America the Beautiful,” was in honor of all emergency responders.
“This is one arrangement that included all four divisions of the military,” choir director Gary Lovingood said. “The U.S. Coast Guard wasn’t included because they didn’t sign over the rights to their song to be a part of any arrangement.”
Cass band mom April Miligan said this gathering was her first time to the plaza. “It’s a neat little place.”
With five generations in her family serving in the military, Sandra Collins of Cartersville said that the crowd was a great representation of the city. “9/11 sealed the fate of my kids for joining,” she said. “This [ceremony] was very nice and we’ve got great weather for it today.”