A community grassroots effort to honor local first responders in conjunction with this year’s 15th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorism attack upon the United States is being organized and planned for Sunday.
According to the effort’s chief organizer, Clark Bailey, various people throughout the community have come together to revitalize the once annual program that was known as “An Evening with Harlan County Heroes.”
“Local people from the business community, the arts community, the educational community, and the political community have teamed up to revive ‘An Evening With Harlan County Heroes,’ Bailey said. “The outpouring of support for this program has been amazing, and it’s proof that the selfless service our first responders is much valued and appreciated by our community members.”
“An Evening with Harlan County Heroes” will take place Sunday at the Harlan Depot from 2 to 6 p.m. Local first responders, including firemen, police, EMT’s, paramedics, dispatchers, National Guard and soldiers are invited to attend the free event along with their families. According to Bailey, there will be food, live music, a special speaker, recognitions and door prizes.
Harlan County Detention Center Deputy Jailer Derrick Moore will be the evening’s special speaker. Moore lived in New York City during the Twin Towers terrorism attack. Bailey said Moore will offer a unique perspective of the tragic events that unfolded that day as well as encouraging the volunteer spirit of local first responders today.
“It will be an evening of fun, fellowship and camaraderie for our first responders and their families,” Bailey said. “We owe so much to our local first responders. While emergency service personnel everywhere are to be commended, we believe here in Harlan ours is an even more special breed. Many of our local first responders are volunteers and are not paid for what they do. They sacrifice their own time, money, and other resources to serve their communities. This program is just a small way that the community can say ‘thanks.’”
While Sunday’s event is only for public service employees and volunteers, as well as their families, Bailey said there is a way the community can become involved. Part of Sunday’s program is a photography exhibition that will visually celebrate the lives of Harlan County’s first responders. Bailey is asking people from the community to contribute photographs for the photo exhibit. He said the photos (preferably 8 x 10 in size and matted) can be dropped off at the Harlan Depot on Saturday between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. Old newspaper clippings and scrapbooks are also encouraged for the “Harlan Heroes” exhibition. Submitted items may be picked up Sunday at the end of the program at 6 p.m.
Besides food, fellowship and recognitions, entertainment will also be provided for the evening by local country and blues singer Tucker Lewis and live party DJ Mark Lawson. The Mt. Sinai Spirituals gospel group of Lynch will perform the national anthem for the program.
Bailey said he is hoping Sunday’s “Evening with Harlan County Heroes” will serve as a catalyst to reinvigorate locals to become more public service minded. He said volunteers were needed now more than ever before, especially in the field of emergency management. Bailey said the program should also serve as a somber reminder of how fragile the nation’s freedom is.
“There is a new generation coming of age that does not remember the events of Sept. 11 and how terrifying it was,” Bailey said. “The images captured that day on national television will forever be seared in my memory. While we didn’t experience the tragedy first hand, the tremors were felt here in Harlan. It shook us so much here, that Harlan County experienced a surge in emergency services volunteers. We’re hoping — 15 years later — to see that surge of patriotism and volunteer spirit again.”
Those interested in displaying photographs for Sunday’s “An Evening With Harlan County’s Heroes” are encouraged to contact Jennifer McDaniels of the Harlan County Arts Council at 606-573-4223.