The Heroes Run on Saturday night was a 5K sneak preview. Several main events marking Patriot Day unfolded across Hopkins County Wednesday.
The remembrances began early and privately. Schools across the county held memorial events in the morning. Cash Express may have been first to deliver cakes of appreciation to the Madisonville police headquarters and Central Dispatch.
Between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. on 9/11, Madisonville Fire Station 1 was the setting for a blood drive. But Baptist Health donor recruiter Karen Beadnell indicated the Patriot Day timing was a coincidence.
"We have one there every quarter," Beadnell said. The fire department drives normally last three days, but Thursday's planned collection has been canceled because of a lack of staff.
While some people donated blood inside the station, a crew from Independence Bank was donating time and labor outside. The staff set up tables, tents and games to provide a free lunch to first responders for the fourth consecutive year.
"These guys are out on the streets every day, protecting us and keeping us safe," Hopkins County President Kent Mills said. "This is our way of showing our appreciation."
As church bells downtown rang at noon, Mills presented Patriot Day commemorative prints titled "The Cost of Freedom" to all living current and former Madisonville police and fire chiefs, as well as a former Hopkins County sheriff.
The Madisonville Senior Citizens Center provided its own gifts of baked goods and invited a fire lieutenant to speak at its luncheon. Other businesses and churches stopped by police headquarters during the day with food and cards.
Flags flew at half-staff across the city to remember the 2,977 people who died 18 years ago at the World Trade Center, Pentagon and Somerset County, Pa. In part, it was a day to reflect on the moment when the U.S. first understood what was happening.
"We got an alarm for the General Electric plant, for an explosion," retired Hanson and Madisonville Fire Chief Steve Stoltz recalled. He was a lieutenant with a Madisonville crew on that day.
The alarm turned out to be false. "But you can imagine what was going through our minds, when all that had just started," Stoltz said. "It was pretty traumatic."
"I worked at a local bank," Madisonville's Terry Douglass said. "The world stopped turning for everybody," recalling a country song that Alan Jackson wrote and performed about the attack several weeks later.
Douglass believes that Tuesday of terror in 2001 changed many people, including her.
"I had a great respect for them, but after what they went through -- especially in New York," she said. "My heart goes to them and their families, and what they continue to go through."