Remember the fallen and give thanks to America's heroes.

When looking back on the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001 this was the message organizers of local memorial events wanted attendees to walk away with.

"It's important to remember," said Pastor Mark Mitchell, one of the coordinators for the Let Freedom Ring memorial held in downtown Graham Saturday, Sept. 10. "There were people who died at the attack, but another group of people who died giving their lives to rescue people from inside the towers and later during the wars."

Firefighters, emergency service workers, police officers and military personnel searched through the rubble for survivors and they should be thanked, he said.

Despite the somber anniversary the memorial marked, the atmosphere remained celebratory.

"I came out here because I heard the music and all of the people," said Betty Perry, of Graham. "I've been watching the Sept. 11 coverage all weekend, crying and remembering. I think we need to remember all the lives that were lost. And to have these sort of memorials so young people can remember."

More than 5,000 people attended Saturday's affair, which included musical acts, carnival rides, dramas, local vendors, fireworks and a movie screening. The event was sponsored by Carolina Christian Church, the church of which Mitchell is the pastor.

Richard and Jackie Terrell, of Graham, said they didn't have family members who were killed during the attacks, but the loss of their son at a young age helped them relate.

"We've all lost someone close and felt that pain," Richard Terrell said. "To even come out like this after 9/11, to have the freedom to do something like this is so important."

Elon Elementary students gathered Friday, Sept. 9, to wave handmade American flags as emergency service workers, police officers, firefighters and military personnel paraded through the school parking lot in their vehicles.

The Local Heroes Parade also went to several nearby schools as sirens blared and children screamed "USA."

Many of the children chanting were not born at the time of the attacks.

"Kids get to see the people who help us in our community," said kindergarten teacher Tia Gilliam-Wilson. "It has a big impact and it brings it close to home."

One of the kindergarteners, Grant Clayton, told his mother Kelly he was excited for the "superhero parade."

"I asked him if they were dressing up or something but he told me no," Kelly Clayton said. "He said they were going to wave at the firefighters because they saved people and that's why they are super." Most of those children can't recall the attacks or the wave of patriotism that rose afterward, but defining moments can bond a country, Mitchell said.

"Something like patriotism can anchor a country," he said. "Strike a balance and purpose and provide us a common ground"


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