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Events give honor to area police, firefighters
By Mike Wells and Scott Moyers ~ Southeast Missourian
With as many U.S. flags as an Independence Day celebration, the SEMO District Fair parade honored those who lost their lives and served others on the first anniversary of the nation's terror-inspired tragedy with patriotism and pride.
Leading the flag carriers in the parade was Sgt. Jack Wimp of the Cape Girardeau Police Department, who witnessed the enthusiastic appreciation from the crowd.
"When we approached, people would stand up, clap and put their hands on their hearts," Wimp said. "We're out there serving the public. The kids, they love us and they were waving at us and at the fire officers, as well."
Ivan McLain felt especially good about this year's parade as it honored area police and firefighters, who he counts as family.
McLain, a former Cape Girardeau County sheriff and police officer with Cape Girardeau and Chaffee, used to lead the parade when he served the city as a motorcycle cop, he said. But these days, he enjoys being a spectator just as much..
"I come every year," he said. "But I guess this year is special. I have a grandson who is a policeman with Cape Girardeau ... and I have a nephew in the parade who is a retired firefighter."
The colorful collection of floats, bands and cars made their way from Capaha Park down Broadway and Kingshighway to the fairgrounds on streets lined several people deep. Children stood by eager to collect candy thrown by parade participants.
Cheers arose from onlookers as fire trucks, police and military vehicles rolled past.
"All in all, I think it was a great parade," Wimp said. "I felt very patriotic and proud to be an American and to serve as a law enforcement officer in the city. My heart goes out to those who lost people in 9-11. It makes me feel good to see the American public perceiving us so well."
Parade organizers also thought the event carried more significance than previously for the spectators and participants.
"We'd like to think it had a more patriotic feel than past parades based on the reaction to 9-11," said fair board member Pete Poe. "That's what we encouraged. We started five minutes early and it took an hour and 35 minutes to get all of the entries out of the park. That's the most we've ever had, and we're extremely pleased."
The parade's marshals also played an important role in helping others after Sept. 11, Poe said. Riding in the American Red Cross van, Jim and Billie Probst spent 30 days giving aid to recovery workers at ground zero in New York.
U.S. Army Reserve Staff Sgt. George Westfahl of Jackson showed up to watch the annual tradition dressed in uniform. He is stationed with the Reserve's 89th Regional Support Command.
"I'm just appreciative that people do recognize now the contributions that the firefighters and police do make and always have," Westfahl said. "I have an older brother who is a firefighter and I always felt like he had a more difficult job with having to face danger day to day."
Jackson remembersIn Jackson, the fire department held a morning ceremony attended by a handful of at-attention firefighters and a dozen or so residents wearing red, white and blue and flower pins promising they would never forget.
Standing before a lowered flag, the crowd observed a moment of silence. Firefighters in white gloves ceremoniously rang a bell at the exact minutes the north and south towers fell.
"Keep the memories alive," said department chaplain Mike Grant. "If we keep them alive in our heart, we can pass them on to others. Memorials aren't just memorials. They are reminders to tell others."
Jackson fire chief Brad Golden said it was important, as a fire department, to hold a ceremony marking Sept. 11 considering that 343 "of our brothers" died in the attacks.
"The fire service is very close and we wanted to do something to pay tribute to the guys who were killed," Golden said. "But we wanted to pay tribute to all the firefighters who died last year -- there were also 56 others who died who weren't involved in 9-11."
Dave Hitt, emergency services director for Cape Girardeau County, was among those who attended.
"When I think of what they went through, it just sends shivers down my spine," Hitt said. "You have to remember what they did for people. Those were very special people."
335-6611, extension 160
335-6611, extension 137