Eleven years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center, the Monsignor Danz Knights of Columbus Council 2459 is still honoring the first responders who protect the community.
In 2002, the Knights began organizing the Blue Mass at St. Joseph Catholic Church, a church service designed specifically to say thank you to policemen, firefighters and military personnel. The Winchester service is the only Blue Mass in the area held every year since 2001.
“It’s important to us to keep it going for the community. ... Everybody’s invited, not just the parishioners of St. Joseph,” Jim Barlow, chancellor of Council 2459, said.
Mass begins at 10 a.m. in the church sanctuary, followed by a luncheon at St. Joseph Hall.
The Mass is one of the Council’s biggest projects annually, part of its mission to serve the community and local organizations.
“I think it really helps them (first responders) to know the community recognizes the service they give,” Barlow said.
This year will be Father Frank Brawner’s first time leading the service, after assisting the Most Rev. Ronald W. Gainer, bishop of the Lexington diocese, with a special 10-year anniversary mass in 2011.
Winchester Mayor Ed Burtner said he appreciates what the event does for the community as a whole, as well as the first responders.
“It raises awareness for the events that happened Sept. 11, 2001. I think the further away we get from those events, we tend to forget the sacrifice. I think it’s important that we honor our first responders and their work for making the community a safer place. It’s an event I look forward to every year,” Burtner said.
Mass organizers also try to involve St. Agatha Academy students, many of whom were not yet born in 2001.
“We think it’s important, and I think St. Agatha thinks it’s important to have the students learn citizenship and have respect for those who protect us 24-7,” Barlow said.
In 2011, the students made posters to decorate the church and St. Joseph Hall to show the first responders their appreciation. The guests of honor enjoyed seeing the posters so much, the students were asked to do the project again this year, Barlow said. Several firefighters and police officers took posters back to their stations as a memento of the event.
The Knights of Columbus expect a large group of first responders to attend, and Barlow said many come to the service while off duty.
“We’ve normally filled up almost half the church with first responders,”¿Barlow said.
For first responders, the mass is a morale booster, a reminder their work does not go unnoticed.
“I think the first responders appreciate it when people say thank you and express gratitude,” Burtner said.