HOT SPRINGS -- Members of multiple emergency service organizations gathered at St. Mary of the Springs Catholic Church Monday morning for the seventh annual First Responders' Breakfast.
Hosted by the Knights of Columbus Council 6419, the annual event was created as a way to honor local first responders while remembering those who were killed on Sept. 11, 2001.
The Rev. George Sanders, pastor of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, opened the service with a prayer before explaining the meaning of the annual event.
"As we gather together each year, our purpose is to both remember and to give thanks," he said. "My mom always told me to give thanks to those of us that have done something wonderful for you, and our first responders are always the first line for us each and every day.
"They strap on their belt, pull on their boots, put on their uniform, get in their vehicle, and they stand between us and danger. So today we want to give a special thanks to them. We made this a time where we all remember what happened on 9/11 but also to be thankful for the men and women who serve us each and every day, are willing to go into the fire, are willing to go into danger on our behalf. So thank you so much for being here."
District 7 Garland County Justice of the Peace Dayton Myers also offered thanks to the first responders who were in attendance.
"I'd just like to also thank our first responders here," he said. "I know there are a bunch of them up in the parish hall over there that are still eating breakfast. Obviously, they're very busy."
U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-District 4, led the Pledge of Allegiance before recalling when he heard about the terrorist attacks 22 years ago.
"Thank you to all our first responders," he said. "I know as I was driving in this morning that it reminded me very much of Sept. 11, 2001, a beautiful clear morning. I was driving down to Gurdon, Arkansas, for a meeting. It's a day I'll never forget, and I hope none of us ever forget not only what that meant to our country, but the sacrifices of the men and women, the first responders and the heroic actions that they took, which is just a reminder of the heroic actions that our men and women who are first responders and law enforcement do every day. Thank you to the church and the Knights for hosting this event."
Sanders also recalled the morning of Sept. 11, 2001.
"Like Congressman Westerman, I remember the day it happened, and the moment I heard that, it seemed like my world stopped. ... I remember the first time I heard that a plane hit the tower," he said. "I couldn't believe that, but then when I heard there was a second plane, I knew something really tragic had happened. It wasn't an accident. So I remember my world just stopping, listening to the radio or whatever we had to keep up with news."
The priest then recalled the number of those killed in the incident, noting that "of the 2,977 killed in the Sept. 11 attacks, 412 were emergency workers in New York City who responded to the World Trade Center."
Hot Springs Fire Chief Ed Davis stepped up to ring a silver bell to remember those who lost their lives in the attack.
"The tone I'm about to put out of three sets of three means that you return to your station," he said. "First responders who died that day in New York went to their heavenly father. They returned from their final assignment to their station with the Lord. We want to honor all those first responders -- the 71 police officers and 343 firefighters -- who died that day. We'll do that with three sets of three tones of the bell."