LIVINGSTON -- Cry Out America, a national annual ceremony held to remember the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, was held on a local level inside the Livingston Parish Council Chambers on Tuesday.
There was hardly an empty seat in the Council Chambers as people of all ages came to honor the more than 3,000 people who died in September 2001 at the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington D.C.
The theme for this year’s ceremony was “Pray for America’s Unity.”
Army National Guard Lt. Col. (Ret) Arthur Perkins, a former Livingston Parish principal and member of the Denham Springs City Council, served as the event’s master of ceremonies, introducing a long list of elected officials and local pastors who shared memories of that quiet Tuesday morning 17 years ago to the day.
“Cry Out America reminds us of those attacks on our nation and our desperate need for God’s faith,” Perkins said. “As America remembers this day, this is a day when millions of Americans join for a few moments to cry out to God for our nation.”
During his speech, U.S. Rep. Garret Graves — who was in Washington D.C. during the attacks — said he still remembers seeing smoke rising from the Pentagon shortly after it was struck at 9:37 a.m.
He said he also remembered seeing a nation come together through prayer as it sought healing from the worst foreign attack on American soil.
“I remember that Sunday after 9/11… because I remember going to church that day, and I was literally standing outside the church [because] there wasn’t enough room because there was that many people there,” Graves said.
“As we move forward 17 years later, let’s remember the lessons,” Graves said later. “We can disagree, but we don’t have to be disagreeable. We are all Americans first… … so many other bonds that pull us together and make us stronger.”
Seventeen years ago, Clerk of Court Tommy Sullivan, Jr., said he was driving from Denham Springs to Livingston when he saw a road worker waving an American flag on the side of Interstate 12.
“I didn’t realize until I got to the courthouse what had happened, but that was the first instance of patriotism I remember [seeing on 9/11],” Sullivan recalled. “I don’t know where he got the flag, but people were blowing their horns at him. It was something that we so badly needed.”
As he watched clips of the terrorist attacks on the news Tuesday morning, Livingston Parish President Layton Ricks said he couldn’t help but think of the families who lost “someone they loved” on that unforgettable day.
“I’ve seen grown men with tears in their eyes, and I would like to cry right now just thinking about what I saw that day, and I didn’t have a family member involved,” Ricks said. “Can you imagine what they felt [after] such a senseless, useless attack?
“The good news is... it didn’t destroy America. It brought us together and made us stronger than ever.”
The ceremony also included music from Micah Quave of Denham Springs High, Sammi Rushing of Live Oak United Methodist Church, Michael Rheams of Remnant of God Church in Christ, and sisters Emily and Ella Otken.
Other city and parish officials who spoke were Denham Springs Mayor Gerard Landry, Walker Mayor James Watson, Livingston Parish Sheriff Jason Ard, Livingston Parish Public Schools Superintendent Rick Wentzel, Chief Judge Bob Morrison, and Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Deputy Gene Higginbotham.
Ministers included Constance Saizon of Hughes and St. Landry UMC, Val Taylor of Life Church, Mike and Susan Barnett of As One United in Christ Fellowship, Vernon Phillips of Gulf South Church of God, Tyler LaFauci of Abundant Life Church, Jesse Bourgoyne of Accountability Church, and Roger May of Revival Temple.
Other participating groups included elementary students from Life Academy in Walker and the color guard from the Walker High School Marine Corps JROTC.