September 20, 2001

Local Residents Responding To Terrorist Attacks On Our Nation




While it was thousands of miles away and the acts of terrorism did not directly affect the lives of any of the residents of Scotland County, local residents felt the impact of the plane crashes and destruction on the east coast September 11.

The sense of community that normally is reserved for neighbors, relatives and close friends, has quickly spread to our countrymen that have been struck down in New York City and Washington, D.C.

A large crowd gathered at the First Baptist Church in Memphis at 11:30 a.m. Friday, September 14, as requested by the President of the United States, George W. Bush. The president requested that citizens across the nation gather as part of a day of mourning for the nearly 5,000 people killed by the terrorist acts earlier in the week.

Guests filled the chapel and poured over into the surrounding rooms to listen to Memphis Mayor Ron Alexander, Sheila Berkowitz, the wife of First District Rep. Sam Berkowitz, as well as several area church representatives address the gathering.

The gathering represented a broad spectrum of the population from school children to the elderly, from business owners that had closed their shops to attend to firemen and law enforcement officers that showed up in force to honor their fallen comrades.

The crowd was particularly moved by the words of student Jennifer Crawford, an officer in the Methodist Church Youth Group, whose prayer brought tears to many eyes.

Following the ceremony a number of fire trucks were lined up outside the church as well as in front of the fire station across town. The sirens were sounded at 12:05 p.m. as part of a national ceremony for the estimated 200+ emergency service personnel that lost their lives while attempting to save others.

Friday's ceremony highlighted several days of activity in the community. Gerth's Funeral Service announced it will be handling donations to be made to help the effort on the East Coast. Donors can give money to the Red Cross Disaster Relief Effort or directly to the victims of the disaster through the NY-DC Relief fund. Gifts can also be left for the Salvation Army, which is assisting in the relief effort as well. More than $600 had been donated in less than three days. A similar fund drive has been started at Firstar Bank in Memphis.

The Scotland County Fire Department announced a free-will offering soup supper to benefit the New York City firemen and their families. The fund raiser will be held Saturday, September 22 at the fire station in Memphis beginning at 4:00 p.m. and lasting through the evening. Anyone wishing to donate side dishes or desserts can leave them at the fire station the day of the event.

Students at the high school and elementary school have donated hundreds of dollars since the tragedy occurred.

KMEM radio raised nearly $500 September 18 in an impromptu fundraiser at Gas & More.

While the community did not lose any family members, several area residents have had family members or friends touched by the event.

The most alarming impact has been the large number of local reserves and National Guard members that have been placed on alert. The President has approved the call-up of as many as 50,000 reservists. A majority received phone calls Friday, September 14, informing them to make sure their affairs were in order in case the call-up was made in the near future.

Dean Troutman, a truck driver from Memphis reportedly was unloading his truck in New York City just a short distance from the tragedy.

Retired Colonel John Schweppe, the husband of former Memphis resident Cathy Gerth, was at the Pentagon when it was struck by the hijacked plane. Fortunately he was on the other side of the building and was not injured. According to the Gerth family, Schweppe, retired from the Army, now works as a military contractor and was at the site on business.

Family members of David Kutzner, another former Memphis resident who now lives in New Jersey, stated he had fortunate timing related to the incident. Kutzner reportedly was prepared to board a plane from Newark, NJ, en route for California the following day. A plane that departed from Newark bound for San Francisco, was hijacked and crashed in Pennsylvania.

Jim Woods told the congregation at the Baptist Church about his daughter, a fire service employee in Florida, who traveled with several of her colleagues to the Trade Center disaster area to help.

Rep. Berkowitz released the following statement regarding the tragedy: "Like all Americans, I am shocked, horrified, and saddened by this unspeakable act of terrorism. Our thoughts and our prayers are with the families of victims of this tragedy.

America is not perfect, but it is the greatest beacon of freedom and model of democracy the world has ever seen. We might be shaken, be we will not crumble.

The American people will move forward with increased resolve and renewed vigor. Let September 11 forever be remembered as a time for reflection.

Like so many Americans before us who have lost their lives or fought to protect the right to be free, we are reminded once again that the price of freedom does not come easy. We ask God to guide us, to comfort us, and to give us the courage to find triumph from tragedy and bless and unite the people of the greatest country on earth; the United States of America."

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