Desiring to do something in Westminster that honored veterans, military personnel and first responders, Carroll County Agricultural Center Facilities Marketing Manager Tom Becker decided to organize a three-day event to memorialize the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The commemoration, Saluting Our Heroes, will be held Friday, Sept. 9, to Sunday, Sept. 11, at the Ag Center in Westminster.
"It's time for smaller cities to recognize [veterans, military personnel and first responders] and thank them for their service. Not enough people walk up and shake their hands. Here's our chance," Becker said.
Becker, who is a veteran of the Marine Corp, said he comes from a military family and always appreciated that "big cities have parades, fireworks, something that honors veterans."
"We've heard so much about 9/11 since it's happened," Becker said in a telephone interview. "I've had the privilege of going there and seeing it from when it first happened to where it is today. … When I visited, I saw the new tower and the museum that is underground. When you go there, you can see all the things that this committee did to preserve what happened there.
"It's the most gut wrenching thing you may ever see. It encompasses so much. From the engines that had been destroyed to the coroner's car to the pictures of those who perished to the very first news broadcast. There's a section where you can listen to the plane [recording] they crashed in outside of Pittsburg. As heartfelt as it is, it's something you really have to listen closely to understand what happened. It's hard to explain. If you ever do one thing in your life, you have to go there."
Becker said the Lineboro 4-H Club, which is led by his wife, traveled to New York shortly after the attacks.
"They presented the first fire company on the scene with blankets, food and a big banner thanking them for what they did," Becker said. "That's been hanging in my mind for quite a few years."
With these memories in mind, Becker decided to partner with Special Olympics Maryland Area Director Laurie Brewer and the Carroll Cancer Center for the event. Becker said the proceeds will be divided among those two organizations.
Brewer said the organization decided to have their inspiration walk at the event this year to "tie it all together."
"The purpose is to get people to walk with our athletes and reflect upon what Special Olympics is," Brewer said.
"We're doing a scavenger hunt during the walk that incorporates police, firemen and veterans. The Special Olympics has always had a large partnership with the police department. We want to honor all military, police and first responders."
Becker said there will also be approximately 25 businesses and organizations for visitors to explore. Vendors like Lauren Kadlubowski, of Quilts and Gifts by Lauren in Westminster, will be selling her wares at the commemoration. She sews blankets, pillows, pillowcases, and adult and baby bibs; and will feature some military and first responder-inspired pieces.
"My dad served in the Army Reserves and my grandfather and uncle served in World War II," Kadlubowski explained. "I heard about it, and I wanted to be able to provide my made in America products to people that are serving our country. I've just always been very proud of everybody who has served. I'm proud to be an American. I think we live in a great country."
Kadlubowski, who is a former volunteer emergency medical technician with Gamber & Community Fire Department, said she thinks the event is a great way to honor veterans, military personnel and first-responders.
"I think that everybody who put forth any part of themselves for the greater good of the community and country, and anybody that has made sacrifices should be honored in any way possible," Kadlubowski said.
Chris Fisher, of Yankee Carver Bob Fisher in Sykesville, will also be selling his merchandise. He crafts hand-carved and hand-painted bass wood toys, castles, Santas, figurines and wooden eggs.
"I've been working on a bunch of patriotic and military eagles and there's one of Santa Claus in camo," Fisher said, adding, "I'm a veteran and my dad was a veteran. I think we should show our local men and women that we support them for their service every single day. I hope everybody comes out and enjoys a good time."
Where: Carroll County Agriculture Center, 706 Agricultural Center Dr., Westminster
When: Friday, Sept. 9: 6:30 p.m. Flag retirement ceremony, 8 p.m. Dean Crawford and Dunns River Band concert. Saturday, Sept. 10: 7:30 a.m. Reveille, 9 a.m. Special Olympics Inspiration Walk, 9:45 a.m. national anthem, 10 a.m. Battlefield Harley Davidson sponsored motorcycle rally (2.5 hour ride). Also includes four bands throughout the day, Special Olympics' softball and football throw, Ag Center's tug o' war and obstacle course, two moon bounces, cornhole. 6 p.m. roll call, 7:30 p.m. Foggy May concert. Sunday, Sept. 11: 8:30 a.m. Reveille. Similar events to Saturday. 2 p.m. closing ceremony.