HARTSVILLE, S.C. – Eighteen years ago lives were changed forever on Sept. 11 when terrorists attacked the World Trade Center in New York City. The Hartsville Rotary Club remembered and honored first responders in Darlington County with a dinner on Tuesday night to thank them for their services to the community.
About 75 first responders from Hartsville Police Department, Darlington County Sheriff’s Office, Hartsville Fire Department, Darlington County EMS, Darlington County Fire District, S.C. Highway Department and others enjoyed dinner at First Presbyterian Church in Hartsville served by Rotarians.
“We started honoring our first responders in 2017,” said Charles Saverance, president of the club. “I went to a Rotary International meeting in Atlanta, my fourth, and heard a member of another club tell what they did on 9-11 during one of the breakout sessions.” Saverance said he thought the idea was wonderful and came back to pitch a similar idea to then President Bobby McGee. He said the board approved.
A vocational services committee was formed, which Saverance chaired the first two years.
The first year the club served pizza for lunch to first responders and the second year biscuits for breakfast.
Saverance said this year Lucy Brown took charge of the event.
“She turned it into what I envisioned from the get-go,” he said.
“It was an honor to prepare and serve a meal to our local first responders,” Brown said. “I'm sure each one of us could tell a story of how they touched our lives or that of a loved one. As the Rotarians interacted with these great men and women, it was obvious to us just how much they love their job and how much they care about the community they serve.”
Tuesday night first responders were served sirloin steak prepared by Jamie Morphis and crew and a catered meal.
“I would like to thank Jamie Morphis for grilling the steak and Jennifer Marshall for coordinating the setup and table decorations,” Brown said.
The tables were decorated with balloons shaped like fire hydrants, police cars, fire trucks and other symbols of the trade.
“I like coming to these kinds of events,” said Veronica Harrell with the Darlington County EMS. “It is good to see everybody. We call on these people to come help in situations.”
She said they don’t always get to see them outside of an emergency.
“Sometimes it is only at events like this that we get to see others,” said Chaz Russ with DC EMS.
“It shows that the community appreciates our work,” said Lt. Tenyonde Richardson of the Hartsville Police Department. “It means a whole lot to be appreciated in the community.”
Janice Woodham, who is on the administrative staff at the Hartsville Police Department, said it shows that this town has a big heart.
“The meal was fabulous,” Woodham said.
Danny Truett with the Darlington County Sheriff’s Office said it means a lot to know that someone is thinking about first responders in a favorable way. That is not always the case, he said.
“Most people do this because they have a calling and want to give back to the community,” said Barry Kennett of the Lydia Fire Department. “We are scared too.”
Hartsville Fire Chief Jeff Burr reflected on the events of 9-11.
“I’m still loss for words as to what it means to me,” he said. “It is still a surreal moment to me.”
He said first responders put their lives on the line, even though they knew what the results would be, because that is what they do. He said they knew there was a possibility they wouldn’t come out alive.
He said events like the one Tuesday night keep reminding people of what happened 18 years ago.
“Never ever forget,” he said.
He said to keep the families of those brave individuals, many who lost their lives that day and others who are fighting cancer and other side effects from being at ground zero, in your prayers.
“A lot of good guys died helping others, willing to die for others,” said Harrell.