LUMBERTON — More than 150 walkers, including firefighters in full turnout gear, took part Saturday in the inaugural 9/11 Remembrance Walk at Luther Britt Park.
“This walk is not about us. It’s about helping our fellowman. This is all about the brotherhood of service,” Eddie Cox, a professional Lumberton firefighter and volunteer member of the East Howellsville Fire Department, told the walkers as they prepared to step off on the 3.43-mile trek around the park.
The walk’s distance symbolizes and calls to memory the 343 first responders who lost their lives in the line of duty on Sept. 11, 2001, when terrorists toppled the World Trade Center in New York, and damaged the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.
Cox, one the event’s small group of organizers, said that last year he was planning to go to Charleston, S.C., to participate in a walk commemorating the 15th anniversary of 9/11 when he realized there was nothing being done in Robeson County to mark the occasion. He decided to go on Facebook and see if he could raise interest in holding a walk in Robeson County.
“It was a small event, but last year 40 of us met and walked through downtown Lumberton,” he said. “This was a group of flag-loving Americans.”
This year a small group of first responders got together and decided to organize a larger event that would involve more of the community, Cox said. In addition to Cox, the 9/11 Memorial Walk Committee included Steve West, chief of East Howellsville Volunteer Fire Department; Jeanie West, an East Howellsville firefighter; Monica Hunt, a firefighter with Deep Branch Volunteer Fire Department; Steve Britt, chief of the Orrum Volunteer Fire Department; Nancy Britt, Steve Britt’s wife; Ashley Blackburn, Raft Swamp Volunteer Fire Department chief and president of the Robeson County Firefighters Association; and Robert Ivey, Fire Rescue coordinator at Robeson Community College.
Cox, who was employed by Robeson County as a paramedic in 2001, credits the 9/11 terrorist actions with encouraging him to pursue a career in firefighting.
“Firefighting is a profession I love,” he said.
During a brief ceremony, Lumberton Mayor Bruce Davis, Robeson County Board of Commissioners Chairman Tom Taylor, and state Sen. Danny Britt, Jr. acknowledged the importance of the county’s first responders
“On behalf of the county commissioners, I want to thank you for all that you do for the county,” said Taylor, who is also the Allenton Volunteer Fire Department chief. “Your services are invaluable. We (the county) couldn’t pay you for what you deserve.”
Davis, pointing to Hurricane Matthew, commended all the first responders for their services during the hurricane.
“You are patriots in the community,” he said. “I simply want to say thank you. Lumberton is in your debt.”
Britt told the small gathering of mostly emergency first responders that all people began to work together as a result of the 9/11 attacks.
“It brought back God,” he said. “There was hope, prayer and friendship.”
The events of 9/11 should never be forgotten, and that there should be “hope” that a such a destructive event never happens again, Britt said.
Bob Shiles can be reached at 910-416-5165.