Lebanon celebrated Patriot Day a little differently this year.
City and county officials, as well as citizens and public servants gathered at the Wilson County Fairgrounds on Wednesday to commemorate the events of Sept. 11.
Events began at 4 p.m. with an opening ceremony, and the night was capped off by a firework show at 8 p.m.
The opening ceremony featured different speakers, such as state representatives, public servants and veterans.
Veteran Ken Kackley spoke about his direct involvement on Sept. 11.
“Sept. 11 was the ugliest day of my life,” Kackley said.
Kackley said he was in his barn in Maryland, where he also was a volunteer firefighter, when he heard a loud noise.
“I’ve been on fighter planes that seemed quiet compared to what I heard that day,” Kackley said. “I looked outside, and a plane was flying so low I could see the pilot of the plane’s face.”
Kackley said seconds later he was paged by the fire department and soon en route to the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.
As Kackley reminisced, he said he remembered his neighbor who had served in the Navy and had injured his eye about a week earlier.
Kackley said the section of the Pentagon that had been hit was mostly empty offices under construction, but a Navy center was also affected.
“One of the first things I saw when I got to the Pentagon was John lying there,” Kackley said. “I recognized him by the eye patch he had been wearing over his hurt eye.”
Kackley said his neighbor lost his life that day, and he thought Sept. 11 was a day to mourn and to honor the patriots that lost their life serving America.
State Rep. Joe Carr also spoke to a crowd at a pavilion at the fairgrounds where he spoke of Sept. 11 being a “humbling occasion” for America.
“So many people—law enforcement, first responders and average citizens—lost their life just for being Americans,” Carr said. “But when it’s right, America is the first to fight. We didn’t ask for Sept. 11 to happen but they way we responded truly shows who we are.”
Rep. Mark Pody also spoke to the crowd and said, “we’re here because freedom comes at a cost.”
“There are those who try to divide us from the outside like these terrorists and things that try to divide us from the inside like race or gender,” Pody said. “There has been so much that has tried to destroy us but actually it’s brought us together. What people have meant as evil on us we have found good in and used it as a rebirth.”
County Mayor Randall Hutto said, “on this day and everyday, it’s important to remember those people who got up and went to work and didn’t come home.”
“Today we honor those who train for a day they hope never happens and I’m thankful to have those public servants and first responders everyday,” Hutto said.
Watertown Mayor Mike Jennings said he would always remember the sacrifices made on Sept. 11 and how the country rallied together as Americans.
“Instantly a new group of heroes was born, and that’s the group that charged forward into those buildings,” Jennings said. “I think this day has put an increased amount of trust in the emergency service people and locally we’ve made even more of a commitment to be ready.”
Erron Kenny, Mt. Juliet’s new fire chief, said he had a friend who survived the attacks.
“This day has pointed out how small and insignificant I am,” Kenny said.
Kenny, who is a former Titans football player, said playing in the NFL and holding athletes as heroes doesn’t compare to the sacrifices made by public servants.
“I’m entrusted with lives everyday now and my decisions impact lives,” Kenny said. “We can’t let those lives lost on Sept. 11 be in vain. We have to embrace the past so we can enlighten the future.”
Mayor Philip Craighead said every time he hears sirens in the area he sends a prayer up.
“I always wonder if the citizens are all right or if our first responders are all right, and that’s something I never expected when I took this job,” Craighead said.
Craighead said he thought Sept. 11 was a day to “remind the enemies that we don’t roll over or give in.”
“As Americans, we help our neighbors, love our kids and love our country, and we will always defend our country,” Craighead said.