City of Winter Haven Remembers Sep. 11 by Honoring Our Heroes
by James Coulter
Do you remember where you were on Sep. 11, 2001? Sheriff Grady Judd remembers. He was in a conference room doing paperwork when he received a call from his wife. She asked him if he had watched the news. When he asked why, she informed him that a plane had struck one of the Twin Towers in New York City.
Sheriff Judd turned on the television. No sooner had he done so, another plane hit the other tower. Sheriff Judd knew right away that the crash was a terrorist attack. When his wife asked how he could tell, he told her how he had received training to identify such a situation.
“If I asked you what you were doing a month ago, most of you wouldn’t be able to remember,” he said. “But if I asked you what you were doing 22 years ago, you can tell exactly where you were.”
During his speech, he urged his fellow citizens in Winter Haven to be mindful of their firefighters, law enforcement officers, and other first responders. It is their duty to protect and serve that ensure everyone else remains safe, especially considering such tragedies.
“[They] are out every day people doing heroic feats because they want to do what is best for you,” he said. “No one can ever break the American system as long as you live and we live as real Americans…I wish great blessing for each of our first responders and each of you and your loved ones.”
Sheriff Judd spoke these words during his speech at the Honoring Our Heroes ceremony hosted in Downtown Winter Haven on Mon. Sep. 11. The event was hosted to remember that fateful day and to commemorate the lives of the brave souls who gave their all to help those in need that day.
The Honoring Our Heroes event featured a Freedom Walk, where more than 100 residents walked through downtown in solidarity and remembrance of the lives lost 22 years ago. Participating in the walk were the honor guard, along with members of local scouting troops.
The main ceremony featured the color guard, the singing of the national anthem, and the reciting of the pledge of allegiance. Several city and county officials gave speeches ruminating on the events of that fateful day and the lives sacrificed to keep other people safe.
Gary Clark, Chairman of The Polk County Veterans Council, stressed the importance of teaching future generations about the events that occurred 22 years ago and the impact they made upon the nation.
“Evil truly does lurk in this world, and you have to go out and defeat it,” he said. “We need to be ever vigilant. That is what it means to be prepared.”
City Manager Michael T. Starves recalls being in a conference room at Temple Terrace ready to accept a job in Winter Haven. Ever since then, he has witnessed how the community has changed, and how it has thrived under the protection of its fire, police, and rescue services.
“I feel honored to represent a city that is so guarded by fire and police that work so hard to make sure you are safe in this community,” he said. “What they do every day to protect us is not without risk and is nothing without commitment.”