The Knights of Columbus and the parishioners of St. Joseph Catholic Church want to make sure Winchester never forgets.
For the past 11 years, the groups have organized a Blue Mass for Clark County first responders with that goal in mind.
The 2012 theme, “We remember, we celebrate, we believe,” was applied to both the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the protection provided by local first responders.
“It has been an honor and privilege to honor you people for the service you provide,” Jim Barlow, Knights of Columbus chancellor, said, speaking to the rows of first responders filling St. Joseph Church.
All first responders from Winchester and Clark County are invited to the mass annually, where they receive a special blessing and are celebrated for making sacrifices to better the community.
Winchester Police Captain Harvey Craycraft said he was pleased with the large crowd at the event.
“It was nice seeing the community out supporting us. It seems to be just as big as when it started,” Craycraft said.
The Monsignor Danz Council of the Knights of Columbus began the event in Winchester in 2002 and Barlow has said previously he is proud of the council and the community for keeping the tradition so many years after attacks.
Father Frank Brawner, parish priest at St. Joseph, spoke about the importance of remembering the events of Sept. 11 in his homily.
“The United States made a promise to herself, to the world, to first responders, to the military. The promise was simple: We will remember,” Brawner said.
He spoke about the importance of love, and the love shown by first responders in the sacrifices they make on a daily basis. He praised them for working long hours, often in dangerous situations, for little pay.
“The Christian church centers all on love. ... Love has a very practical meaning. It means wanting the best for the other,” Brawner said.
He called their love “selfless” and joked about the difficulty of their profession, comparing it the priesthood — a profession that leaves people wondering why anyone would choose to enter it.
“We see service as part of our vocation in the Christian life. The love that is selfless is not easy to give,” Brawner said.
Students from St. Agatha Academy were invited to participate in the service, as well. Several students sang in the choir, and all classes provided posters to hang in St. Joseph Hall to show their thanks to first responders.
Craycraft said he hoped to take a few of the posters to the Winchester Police Department to display after the mass.
Eight of the city’s 32 officers were present at Tuesday’s mass. Captain James Hall said more would attend, but officers are still needed on the streets.
“It is nice to feel like people don’t take the job we do for granted,” Hall said. “We appreciate the fact that they appreciate us.”
Contact Rachel Parsons Gilliam at email@example.com.