The everyday heroic efforts of Hendersonville’s first responders took center stage as civic, state and city leaders dedicated a memorial in their honor last week at Memorial Park.
The memorial that pays tribute to local law enforcement, fire and Emergency Medical Services personnel was a gift from the Hendersonville Rotary Club. The group, headed by Rotarian Eddie Roberson, who is also a city alderman, spent more than a year planning and raising money for the project. Title sponsors included the Memorial Foundation, former U.S. Congresswoman Diane Black and her husband Dave; David and Bonnie Owen and David Boger.
“This project represents the efforts of many individuals here today,” Rotary Club President Keith Dennen said during a dedication ceremony on Oct. 28. “I am proud to present this monument to the city of Hendersonville.”
Hendersonville Mayor Jamie Clary accepted the memorial on the city’s behalf.
Several local and state dignitaries shared remarks during the ceremony, including Hendersonville Fire Chief Scotty Bush. Bush noted that the memorial includes a piece of steel from one of the World Trade Center towers destroyed during the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The fire department obtained the object years ago from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
“The average person does not know what we do or why we do it,” said Bush. “But every one of these fallen members knows exactly why. It was a strong desire to help people and their brothers and sisters in the field no matter what the reason. It is our way of life. Today is about memorializing every person here and in heaven for their bravery, courage and adherence to their duty and sense of honor.”
Hendersonville Police Chief Mickey Miller said that the past year has been a particularly heart breaking one for his department, pointing to the death of MPO Spencer Bristol in December.
“Spencer was in many ways the heart and soul of this department and it will never be the same,” said Miller. “However, I have been amazed at the job this department has done since that tragedy. We have continued on with the job of protecting this community and we will always continue on because that’s exactly what Spencer would have done if the same thing had happened to any of us.”
Miller thanked many of those who made the memorial possible, saying it will give hope and encouragement to his officers as they go about their every day duties.
“We deeply, deeply appreciate y’all’s service,” said State Rep. William Lamberth (R-Portland) who read letters from both Gov. Bill Lee and President Donald Trump.
Former Wilson County Sheriff Terry Ashe, who is currently serving as the Deputy Commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Safety, spoke on behalf of Gov. Lee.
“This memorial is absolutely beautiful,” said Ashe who recalled losing two officers on the same day in 2003.
Ashe urged the community to stay in contact with those left behind when an officer or first responder loses his or her life.
“Continue to reach out to those families, those co-workers because when an officer or firefighter dies a little piece of the community dies along with him, and a little bit of everybody hurts,” he said.
Rotarian and former U.S. Congresswoman Diane Black, who served as the ceremony’s keynote speaker, recognized the families of five Hendersonville Police Officers who have died in the line of duty by asking them to stand.
“This day is dedicated to you,” said Black who also recognized those who served in the military for their service.
“Service above self - this is the motto of our Rotary Club which all good Rotarians are to live up to,” she said. “First responders are such an integrated part of our lives we hardly even stop to think of how special they are. They deal with crisis, anguish, loss and tragedy that an every-day citizen cannot imagine.
“We are all honored to recognize those who live their lives for service above self.”
Roberson concluded the remarks, followed by a 21-gun salute and the placing of a wreath by Bristol’s widow, Lauren Bristol. Bristol was joined by Rotarians Julie White and Barbara Brennan.
“We humbly dedicate this monument to past, present and future first responders of our city and county,” said Roberson.
“Over 100 years from now the future residents of this city will not remember the words or songs from this day, but they will be able to gaze upon this monument, and know that this generation respected and honored and exhibited for our keepers of peace and protectors of life.
“This is a place of respect and honor and may all who visit it in the future treat it with due reverence.”