9/11 Memorial Ceremony

This past Sunday, Clinton and surrounding communities, took time to gather on the Henry County Courthouse Lawn to unveil a 9/11 Memorial.  If you weren’t able to attend the ceremony I would encourage you to visit the square and view the memorial – it’s very moving.  You can watch the ceremony on KDKD’s web TV at westcentralmoinfo.com.  I had the honor of MC’ing the event and paying tribute.  Below is a copy of my speech. 

This is a long post but I didn’t feel right only inserting portions of what I said and risking anything being taken out of context.

“We Remember” Ceremony – 2:00 p.m. September 11, 2011.


“Through blurred eyes we find the strength and courage to soar beyond the moment.  United, we look to the future knowing we can never forget the past”.  You’ll see those words inscribed on the memorial when we unveil it in a few minutes.  As I prepared my words for today’s ceremony finding the words to open were the most difficult.

I thought about beginning the ceremony by asking for a show of hands by those who remember where they were on September 11, 2001 when the jets struck the Twin Towers but 10 years later the question of “where were you” has almost become cliché.  I’m willing to bet that most of you remember exactly where you were on September 11, 2001 when you became aware that America and our way of life was under attack.  For most of us the events and images of that day are burned into our subconscious.

The events of September 11, 2001 have had a profound effect on our society and that effect is evident in the year long process that unfolded to bring a 9/11 memorial to the Henry County Courthouse Lawn. 

Those who might have the most trouble answering the question “where were you” are those who have worked diligently to obtain a piece of steel from the World Trade Center and erect the monument that we’re about to unveil.  Those who may have the most trouble answering “where were you” represent the hope and love that’s been reaffirmed by an act of hate that occurred 10 years ago today.

Those that might have the most difficulty answering “where were you”; may have difficulty answering not because they don’t care but because they were 4, 5, 6, 7 or 8 years old when the attacks occurred.  Today, ten years later, those children are young men and women and their passion to make sure “We Remember” has erected this monument.

In September 2009, J.C. Smith received a letter from the September 11th Families Association.  The letter was penned by Lee IeIpi whose son, Johathan IeIpi, a firefighter with the Fire Department of New York Squad 288, was one of the 2,973 innocent people killed at the World Trade Center.  The letter offered an opportunity to obtain a piece of steel from the site of the most horrific attack of violence to ever occur on American soil if that steel would be used to create a public memorial. 

J.C. turned the letter over to Bethany VanWinkle, then START President, and said “what do you think”.  Bethany didn’t have to think, she knew.  Bethany knew if the START, Rotary Interact and Youth Empowerment Program Groups could obtain the steel, a monument could be created.  

Past START President Bethany VanWinkle and Current START President Mary Langdon as well as countless youth in our community along with adult advisers J.C. Smith, Kim Langdon and Debby VanWinkle have turned “what do you think” into “We Remember”, a tribute and a salute.  A tribute to the innocent people who tragically lost their lives on September 11, 2001 and a salute to those first responders who demonstrated bravery by running blind into a cloud of dust on that fateful day and continue to run blindly into a cloud of dust to keep us safe each and every day. 

Before we move on with the program I would like to welcome and thank each of you for being here today.  I would like to extend a special welcome to all elected officials, active and past duty military personnel, first responders and medical personnel and START and YEP students in attendance.  Please join me in honoring each of these special attendees with a round of applause. 

At this time I invite you to stand for the invocation.  Following the invocation please remain standing as the Clinton Elks Lodge arrives with the flag, the Clinton High School JROTC presents the colors and Crystal Johnson accompanied by the CHS Band leads us in the National Anthem.  Following the completion of the National Anthem continue standing as we observe a moment of silence to reflect on the tragic events of September 11, 2001 and to honor the heroes of that day and those amongst us.



MOMENT OF SILENCE – Thank you, please be seated.


Past START President Bethany VanWinkle and Current START President Mary Langdon will unveil the centerpiece of the memorial, a piece of steel from the World Trade Center which sits atop a granite base. – UNVEIL

 The twisted piece of steel is 36 inches long and weighs 150 pounds.  The steel is bent but not broken much like the American Spirit on 9/11.  The steel sits upon a granite base and the granite symbolizes the solid footing and bedrock our great country was established upon. Thank you ladies.

The backdrop will be unveiled by local first responders and medical personnel. – UNVEIL 

The backdrop to the memorial contains the American Flag.  The red, white and blue of the flag demonstrate our contrast as individuals but unity as one nation under God.  The name of each person who lost their life on 9/11 is etched in the flag just as the events of that day are etched in our hearts.  The three sites of the attacks of 9/11 are noted on the backdrop.  An empty farm field in Shansville, PA, The Twin Towers in New York, NY and the Pentagon in Washington, DC are depicted on the backdrop.   Just as we are country of diverse people, the three locations of the attack remind us of our diverse geography and differing ways of life.  At the base of the backdrop is the inscription I opened the ceremony with “Through blurred eyes we find the strength and courage to soar beyond the moment.  United, we look to the future knowing we can never forget the past”.

Our nation wept for each of the thousands of innocent people who died that day including the 479 first responders whose first thought was not their own self preservation, but the safety of others.  In the same way this memorial honors those who died tragically on September 11, 2001 it salutes emergency personnel.  Driven by courage and a sacred oath to protect, wading upstream through a river of fleeing victims to save those who could not save themselves.  September 11th 2001 renewed our sense of appreciation for the men and women who are first to arrive at the scene of tragedy, who run into a burning house to save a child, who give life saving medical treatment to the injured and who step into harm’s way to protect the innocent. 

At this moment I ask you to join me in recognizing the courage of the first responders and medical personnel who serve our community, because their selfless service continues to this day.  We are honored to be in your presence. – APPLAUSE

I would be remiss if I did not also ask you to remember those members of our Armed Forces who have given their lives in the global war on terror and those that continue to serve.  Thank you for your service. – APPLAUSE


It’s been said that September 11, 2001 is the Pearl Harbor of a different generation.  I’m not sure I agree and I’m not sure it’s appropriate to compare the two events.  What I do believe is that September 11, 2001 forever changed our world.

Just as December 7, 1941 – Pearl Harbor Day – defined a generation, 9/11 has indelibly shaped who we are, how we live our daily lives and what we believe in. 

September 11, 2001 was a typical Tuesday morning.  A morning in which sons and daughters, grandsons and granddaughters, husbands and wives, co-workers and friends – were doing nothing out of the ordinary for a Tuesday morning. 

Some were in their offices getting their day started, some were finishing their day, some were on their way to work, some were boarding an airplane for business or vacation travel and some were waiting for the call to come in to fulfill their oath to protect and serve no matter how horrific the circumstances.

No matter how different a typical Tuesday morning was for each of those affected on September 11, 2001, what each of the individuals we remember here today had in common is that they committed no offense against anyone and they had no ill will towards others.  They were merely going about their daily routine, working hard to provide for their families and live the life they dreamed of.

I believe that what shocked us the most that Tuesday morning was not the method of the attack or the magnitude of the attacks but that it was our way of life that was attacked.  Our way of life that embraces freedom and democracy.  Our way of life that rewards hard work and perseverance, yet encourages selflessness and generosity.  Our way of life that encourages and respects varying opinions and preserves the right to express those opinions.  Our way of life that allows us to worship freely and to look differently. 

In the ashes of 9/11 more than 3000 people were dead or missing.  1,609 people lost a spouse.  3,051 children lost a parent.  137 pregnant women became widows that day.  After the dust had settled 20 percent of the entire US population knew someone hurt or killed in the attacks on that day.

We are here today because we remember.  We remember the victims of the most horrific terrorist attack on US soil and we remember the heroes who emerged from the tragedies of those attacks. 

It’s easy to remember that day and monuments like the one we’ve just unveiled will continue to remind us of 9/11.  The days following 9/11 reminded us that the best of humanity can overcome the worst hate.

We were reminded that congress can be unified and stand arm in arm on the steps of the capital.

We were reminded that community service is something we do not something we should expect.

We were reminded that a flag looks much better hanging on our house than hiding in a closet.

We were reminded that church is a place we want to be not a place we need to go.

We were reminded that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is much more important than the pursuit of possessions.

We were reminded that real heroes do not swing a bat or throw a ball.  Real heroes walk amongst us every day and they are the first responders and medical personnel standing behind me.

We were reminded that the United States of America is the most desirable place to live on this planet.  Not for our mountains, valleys, oceans or cities but for our freedom and I pray that we never again take for granted the freedom that defines who we are.


Now let me introduce you to one of the people whose job it is to ensure our freedom.  It is my distinct honor to introduce Colonel Robert Spalding III.  Colonel Rob “Speedo” Spalding is the 509th Group Commander at Whiteman Air Force Base.  He is an Air Force Command Pilot with over 2,000 hours flight time in two major weapons systems, the B-2 and B-52.  As commander, Colonel Spalding is responsible for leading 323 Air Force professionals who train world class pilots, and employ the B-2 in combat when ordered by the President of the United States.  Colonel Spalding, the controls are yours.



At this time I’d ask you to rise for the Benediction which will be led by Mary Langdon.  Please continue standing after the benediction as we sing the first verse of God Bless America in unison led by the CHS Band, the words are printed in your program.



Thank you for attending today’s ceremony.  I invite you to come forward for a better viewing of the memorial and I encourage you to take the time to thank the first responders and medical personnel from our community who are in attendance.  God Bless America and God Bless Henry County Missouri.

About Craig Thompson

I am a young professional with two great sons, and I work in the healthcare setting. I am employed in hospital administration and serve as Chief Executive Officer at Golden Valley Memorial Healthcare in Clinton, Missouri. At GVMH we care for our families, friends and neighbors. We're committed to providing the safest, friendliest and most compassionate care to all we serve.
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