Harker Heights Fire Department driver Walter Elvidge summed up the meaning of the 12th annual Freedom Walk, which took place Monday at Killeen High School.
“This is my generation’s history-making event.”
Standing beside truck 101, its ladder forming part of an arch from which an American flag flew over the procession to Leo Buckley Stadium, Elvidge added, “My parents remember when JFK was assassinated. I can tell you right where I was when the planes hit the World Trade Center.”
Sixteen years ago, on what started as an ordinary Tuesday morning, two commercial aircraft flew into the twin towers in New York City just before 9 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time. Within minutes, another plane struck the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. A fourth plane crashed in a field outside Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
Killeen Police Chief Charles Kimble, guest speaker at the Freedom Walk, recalled being at work with the Fayetteville, North Carolina, police department when the news broke. So close to Fort Bragg, Kimble knew his life would change, as a veteran himself, and a military spouse.
“We remain a nation at war,” Kimble said in his brief speech. “We still have men and women in harm’s way.”
Kimble reflected not only on the first responders who died Sept. 11, 2001, but, “Most who lost their lives on that day were ordinary people.”
About 400 people from all parts of Killeen, Harker Heights, Fort Hood and nearby communities assembled in the high school’s auditorium for the first part of the Freedom Walk.
The crowd listened to the Ellison High School choir sing the national anthem and “God Bless America.” The program included brief excerpts from the History Channel documentary, “102 minutes that changed America.”
Antoinette Wiggins, retired Army and child care director at the Armed Services YMCA, saw deep meaning in the celebration.
“My family, friends, and the community were all affected by what happened,” she said.
Steve Hudson, executive director of elementary education for the Killeen Independent School District, found the gathering refreshing and inspiring.
Hudson, who has been in Killeen for two years, said, “I’ve never been anywhere they did anything like this, and I’ve been in education a long time.”
As the crowd moved from the Killeen High School auditorium, the high school’s drum line provided a lively beat behind the color guard from Harker Heights Police and Fire departments.
The procession walked a quarter mile to Leo Buckley Stadium. Walkers passed beneath the fire trucks’ arch before circling the stadium track.
All paused as a bell tolled 11 times, then balloons were released to commemorate those who died Sept. 11, 2001.