Editor’s note: Advocate-Messenger Features Editor Jennifer Brummett contributed to this story.
As the 10th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks draws near, Americans prepare to memorialize the tragedy and remember the victims. Centre College will host “A Service of Remembrance in Word and Song” Sunday.
“I worked with two other people — Jeff Jones, Centre College organist, and Jay Adkins, a pastor in Danville who has been serving as head of a loose consortium of pastors — to brainstorm about what we might do. And thus, ‘A Service of Remembrance in Word and Song’ was developed,” she said.
The service will include readings and music from a variety of sources, and groups from across the community will participate — including children who weren’t even alive when the attacks happened in 2001.
“We will have readings representing Christian, Jewish and Islamic traditions. We will have singers ranging in age from 8 years to over 80 years old,” Hall said. “We will have students from Centre, from Boyle County High School, from the Danville Children's Choir and from a number of churches in the area.”
Hall believes group song “accomplishes two very powerful things.”
“It allows an individual to express in song and words something that is much greater emotionally and even intellectually that cannot be expressed in words alone,” she explained. “And that joining together with others creates a sense of unity and human understanding and sharing of the deepest human emotions, such as sorrow, joy, comfort, patriotism and understanding.”
Hall also will direct the Centre Singers as they perform a movement from Mozart’s “Requiem” during the event.
“This piece was done by choirs all across the country back in the early 1960s as a memorial to John F. Kennedy, so it has transcended eras and nations as a work of art appropriate to great loss,” Hall said. “I thought that doing a memorial concert would be meaningful for this community, especially for students at Centre, who were fairly young at the time of the tragedy of 9-11.”
One of those students is Nathan Adams, a first-year Centre student, who will be singing during the service and who was in elementary school when the attacks took place a decade ago.
“I think I was in the third grade when it happened. They didn't tell us about it at school, but when I got home, my mom was sitting on the couch crying, watching the replay of the towers going down,” Adams said. “It really scared me.”
Perryville resident Richard Stallings will be singing tenor with The Presbyterian Church Choir that is directed by Jones and the Summer Singers, directed by Hall. Stallings and his wife, Nancy Ross-Stallings, work for AMEC Environment and Infrastructure Inc. in Louisville. Both were deployed to the World Trade Center site after 9-11. They are members of the Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team that is part of the National Disaster Medical System within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. DMORT is deployed as needed for mass fatality incidents.
“My wife, Nancy, and I were just getting ready to leave our farm for work when one of our employees called and said a small plane had hit the Trade Center. We didn’t think too much of it at first. However, we turned on a radio to NPR, and it quickly became apparent this was a bigger event than first reported,” Stallings remembered. “We then heard about the second plane and knew that this was a major event, and that there was a very good chance we would be deployed.
“We raced to our office in Harrodsburg, where we had a TV and Internet connection — we were in the process of moving and didn’t have cable at the farm. We were notified by 10:30 a.m. that the entire DMORT system was on alert and that we would be deployed, though we did not know where until the next morning.”
They travelled on Sept. 12 and 13 and arrived in New York City on the evening of Sept. 13, Stallings said.
“We spent 2 1⁄2 weeks there the first time working at the NYC morgue and the Fresh Kills Landfill,” he said. “Nancy went back for another 2 1⁄2 weeks in November and worked at the morgue. Our team was assigned to the N.Y. medical examiner’s office to assist with the retrieval and post-mortem examination of human remains, and identification of victims.”
One remembrance in particular stands out about that day, according to Stallings.
“We live on a flight approach to Standiford Field in Louisville, and (planes) are always flying over our farm at about 5,000 feet. I recall standing in the backyard that night, marveling at the fact there were no planes in the sky,” Stallings explained.