By Dan Spalding
WARSAW – Twenty years after Sept. 11, 2001, there was a renewed call for patriotism and unity.
Several hundred people attended the annual 9/11 ceremony outside of Center Lake on Saturday, Sept. 11.
While most of the focus was on Sept. 11, 2001, organizers honored Jason Dobbins, a Warsaw Police officer who died in February of 2000, after he suffered a cardiac event while on duty. He was 50 years old.
Dobbins’ family was presented with an Honor and Sacrifice flag. Dobbins’ wife, Kara Dobbins, was accompanied by Dobbins’ mother and father, mother, Judy Dobbins and Ted Dobbins, in receiving the flags.
“I thought it was a beautiful ceremony and our family really appreciates it,” Kara Dobbins said following the ceremony.
The presentation provided a local perspective on the selfless role of emergency responders across the country that came into sharp focus on Sept. 11.
Saturday’s featured speaker was Sgt. Chris Francis, a member of the Kosciusko County Sheriff’s Office for 17 years who serves as the department’s public information officer.
He was recently sidelined with a case of COVID-19 and used the chance to learn more about 9/11. He was a freshman in college when he saw the towers fall, and it all came rushing back as he prepped for his speech.
“It’s amazing how 20 years later, you can be taken right back to that moment again,” Francis said.
He recalled that among the nearly 3,000 killed on 9/11, that included 343 firefighters, 72 law enforcement officers, eight medical technicians and one new york city fire patrolman who “answered their final call.”
“We have not forgotten nor shall we. On Sept. 11, 2001, brave men and women geared up and rolled out as they were trained and sworn to do,” Francis said.
“Subsequent elements and mental health trauma continue for the survivors and their families today and we cannot forget that,” he said.
He said he still believes the United States remains a nation of opportunity.
“I still believe in the American Dream,” he said.
He then ended his talk by providing a check to cover the cost of the 911 committee for the cost of engraving Dobbins’ name onto the memorial outside of the Center Lake Pavilion.
Another speaker, Mike Cox, who has been organizing the annual 9/11 ceremonies since it began 20 years ago, was more concerning.
The Taliban’s sweeping takeover of Afghanistan, he said, has shown “we and the world are not free of the scourge of radical terrorism that caused 9/11,” Cox said.
“These are the reasons why we must do as we promised on Sept. 12 and never forget,” he said.
He also expressed concern about the divisiveness and discord in the country.
“Cities have burned for a variety of reasons and we don’t know who we can trust. Political agendas and questionable theories in education and racial discord seem to cloud all areas of our lives,” he said.
“That’s why I wanted to challenge all of us to restore that spirit of Sept. 12 when we were all patriot Americans,” he said.
Police fire, ems, medical, dispatchers, and military, he said, “have been through hell recently.”
He said they could use some encouragement. “Maybe it’s just a short note of thanks or a letter posted in the media or a thank you or a thumbs up when you see them on the street,” he said.
He urged people to get involved in their community.
“This is the challenge the 9/11 Committee offers you on this, the 20th anniversary,” he said.
After the ceremonies, there was a parade led by the Indiana Guard Reserve and followed by a wide variety of emergency responder vehicles. Also participating were a large number of the Indiana Patriot Guard Riders.
Unlike a traditional parade, this one was respectfully somber. There were no loud high school bands or blaring music or candy being tossed left and right.
Instead, it was a chance to salute first responders and law enforcement. It started on Canal Street, turned onto North Buffalo Street, headed south into the downtown before heading west.