Parishes in Hot Springs and Conway marked the 18th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks by honoring first responders in their counties.
Hot Springs Knights of Columbus Council 6419 honored Garland County’s first responders by providing free breakfast to about 500 people and a ceremony at St. Mary of the Springs Church.
This is the third year Council 6419 has hosted the commemorative breakfast and ceremony at the parish. The breakfast was prepared and served at the St. Mary parish hall.
To observe when the first terrorist-piloted airliner struck the World Trade Center, inside the church at 7:46 a.m. Hot Springs Fire Chief Ed Davis rang a fire bell. He rang three sets of three rings, noting “Units are back in service.”
“You blue and brown. You do many dangerous things,” Father George Sanders, pastor of St. John the Baptist Church, said during the ceremony. “Today we remember you for what you do for us today.”
After the ceremony, Capt. Keith Goss and Driver Alan Wilson, of the Hot Springs Fire Department, enjoyed their breakfasts of eggs, sausage and pancakes. They said it is good that people do not forget the sacrifices made by the public safety personnel and victims who died at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and Shanksville, Pa.
“I know what those guys were doing trying to save lives,” Goss said. “I understand.”
Garland County Sheriff Mike McCormick and Hot Springs Police Chief Jason Stachey also attended the breakfast and events.
Hans Purkott, chairman of the event, said the breakfast and a prime rib dinner for about 120 first responders Sept. 14 was paid for from donations from the parishioners of St. Mary and St. John churches. He said the idea to hold a 9/11 breakfast and ceremony came from teenager Dayton Myers and his father, David.
Bishop Anthony B. Taylor celebrated a Blue Mass in honor of first responders at St. Joseph Church in Conway. More than 20 first responders, including police officers, firefighters, EMTs and veterans, attended the Mass, with many processing in to the sound of a bagpipe, played by Conway Fire Department Captain Stewart Wilcox. Conway Police Chief Jody Spradlin also attended the Mass.
Parishioner Donna Saldana has been personally delivering thank you cards, prayer cards and St. Michael the Archangel necklaces to first responders since 2015. She was told once she handed out 5,000, a Blue Mass would be held at St. Joseph. As of Sept. 11, she had handed out 5,227.
“I’m back there crying, I had to stand in the back,” Saldana said following the Mass. “They got to come in here and sit down, have quiet, peace, sing and they got that peace for an hour.”
Fathers Chandra Kodavatikanti, Rajasekhar Chittem and Alfhones Perikala concelebrated Mass. A reception followed the liturgy.
James Keary and Aprille Hanson contributed to this report.
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