LAURINBURG — Carol Quick, the wife of late Laurinburg Police Chief Norman Whiteford “N.W.”Quick, believed she was attending Saturday’s Sept. 11 memorial to support her son Bryant Wright, recently named to the Laurinburg Fire Department’s Honor Guard.
What she didn’t know was her late husband’s co-workers would be honoring his memory by presenting her with a folded up American flag at the conclusion of the program at the National Guard Armory.
“My son told me Capt. Chavis wants to talk to you later, I didn’t think anything of it,” she said.
Detective Chris Young and school resource officer Larry Bowman, both members of the police department’s honor guard — meticulously folded the flag into a perfect triangle before presenting it to current police Chief Darwin “Duke”Williams.
Young then brought Quick up to the front of the room, where she instantly burst into tears. Chief Williams, with tears in his own eyes, presented Quick with the flag. She covered her face and continued to cry as her daughter Tiffany Wright and son Bryant tried to console her. After handing Quick the flag, Chief Williams and the family of the city’s former chief embraced.
The gesture echoed what the entire program, sponsored by McDougald’s Funeral Home, had been about — remembering first responders as part of the 15th anniversary of Sept. 11.
Laurinburg Fire Chief Randy Gibson, Scotland County Sheriff Ralph Kersey and Willams, all spoke during the ceremony and talked about where they were when the World Trade Center towers fell as well as the sacrifices and struggles of being a first responder.
“I would like to think of this as a time to come together not to mourn, but to remember,” Gibson said. “A time to reflect and come together and understand just how precious life is. The spirit of this nation has not and will not be defeated. To the first responders I thank you for your day-to-day sacrifices, for what you did yesterday and what you’ll do today.”
Williams still remembers that 15 years ago he was leaving I. Ellis Johnson Elementary School when one of the teachers asked him if he had seen what happened.
“It floored me,” he said. “I thought there is no way something like this can happen on U.S. soil. I can still see images of folks jumping to their death. We take life for granted. Could you imagine being one of the people who were trapped? Let’s get back to who we are, a loving nation. What have we become? Who have we become? Ask yourself that. May God bless each and every one of you.”
Sheriff Kersey was stuck in traffic on Sept. 11 when he heard the news.
“I was on I-40 headed for Raleigh,” he said. “I’m pretty sure all of you could tell me what you were doing on Sept. 11. James 4:14 says ‘Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.’ What the passage is saying is don’t put something off until tomorrow because tomorrow is never guaranteed. The victims of Sept. 11 were just going about their daily business — it was just a typical Tuesday morning.”
Gibson asked the crowd of about 150 people to join him in singing God Bless America before a moment of silence to remember and reflect. Scotland County Director of Emergency Services Roylin Hammond took his turn at the podium and reminded those in attendance that while many things in the world changed following the events of Sept. 11 one thing remained constant
“One thing that hasn’t changed is our first responders dedication,” Hammond said. “They all deserve a debt of gratitude from the public. They make your world a safer place to live in.”
The guest speaker during Saturday’s memorial was Paul Tate, a project manager for the U.S. Army’s Security Assistance Training Management Organization. He referred to the children who have been born since Sept. 11, 2001 as the 9/11 generation because our country has been at war their entire lives.
“We gather to recognize and honor those who selflessly bare the burden of our safety, stability and security over the last decade,” Tate said. “The 9/11 generation, who now at this moment and into the unforeseen future have been in a state of constant war. The War on Terrorism marks the first time since the Revolutionary War that our nation has been in a sustained conflict that is being fought entirely by volunteers. Never before has America has so much of our voluntary forces.”
Tate concluded his speech by saying there is no memorial great enough, not tribute grand enough to honor those who have sacrificed so much for so many.
Bagpiper Bill Caudill played Amazing Grace before members of the Laurinburg Fire Department conducted a bell ringing ceremony, to honor fallen firefighters, before reciting the Fireman’s Prayer. Bugle player Mike Dennison then played “Taps.”
Sherrill Bumgarner of McDougald’s Funeral Home thanked first responders for their dedication to and for attending the event. A total of $1,000 was raised by the event, which McDougald’s donated to the Scotland County Humane Society and to the Patriot Riders, Operation North State that provides gift boxes to soldiers stationed away from North Carolina.
Amber Hatten can be reached at 910-506-3170.