Last weekend marked the 21st anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. Those events hold an undeniable space both in the consciousness of our nation as a whole, and specifically in the memories of the people of Beaufort. As a region with strong military roots, Beaufort citizens and the servicemembers and families who call the area home, were forever changed after the events of 9/11 began two decades of conflict for the United States. This year, South Carolina and the Beaufort region held multiple events to remember the lives that were lost during the 9/11 tragedy itself and to honor the lives affected in the conflicts which followed.
In the Lowcountry, the town of Bluffton held a memorial service on the 11th at the Bluffton Veterans Memorial. The event was supported by local ROTC honor guards and the keynote speaker was Roy “J.R.” Brown, a veteran and the founder/CEO of Operation Patriots Forward Operating Base, a local organization which is dedicated to supporting first responders and military veterans. Bluffton’s mayor, Lisa Sulka was pleased to see so many in the attending crowd were first responders. “They need to know how much we thank and love them, and we do,” she said.
Beaufort’s remembrance ceremony consisted of a memorial walk from Waterfront Park to the Saint Helan’s Anglican Church. The church then hosted a talk by Ann Van Hine, whose husband, Richard served as a firefighter and was killed on 9/11. Van Hine spoke movingly of the reaction to the tragedy on 9/11, saying “It was such a time of unity…it was such a time when people came together and encouraged and helped and were unified.”
A state-level Morning of Remembrance Ceremony also occurred in Columbia to pay tribute to first responders and the military. The 9/11 Remembrance Foundation of South Carolina has hosted this event each year since 2002. The event featured a flyover by the 169th Fighter Wing from McEntire Joint National Guard Base and the State Law Enforcement Division as well as a music program including a performance by the 246th Army Band of the South Carolina Army National Guard. Governor Henry McMaster provided the keynote address and called attention to the need of our society to pass down the memories and lessons of the past such as the events of 9/11. “We must maintain support for those who wear the uniforms of peace, safety, and rescue,” the governor said. “Those among us, now and then, who run and ran to the sounds of danger.”
Although the horrific events of September 11th, 2001 will never be forgotten, the American people have proved over the subsequent 21 years that the United States as a nation was not defeated by the tragedy that the Al-Qaeda terrorists inflicted. The Beaufort Region is a shining example of this, with its strong military-civilian communities which foster limitless opportunities for all citizens. As we remember and give thanks to the brave first responders who battled the tragedies of September 11th and the military members who serve to prevent further tragedies, let us also recognize and be thankful for our own ability to live and thrive in Beaufort where the sound and sights of freedom always surround us.