GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Sunday marks the 10th anniversary of 9/11, the tragedy that impacted so many lives and changed the way America considers national security. And there are a number of special remembrances planned across South Mississippi to mark the occasion.
Senior citizens groups in Harrison County hosted a 9/11 remembrance event on Wednesday.
"How many of you remember where you were when the 9/11 attack occurred?" Evelyn Buckles asked the people in the room.
Hands immediately go up as people recall that fateful day.
"It was unbelievable. I could not believe it. But it happened. And our first responders, that's the reason we are here today. To say thank you, thank you for keeping America safe," said Buckles, who directs the Senior Companion program.
Gift bags created by children and seniors were given to the firefighters, police officers and emergency responders, another way of saying thanks.
"And we also want to remember those victims of 9/11. And the families that have been affected and will never be the same because of that day," said state representative-elect Sonya Williams-Barnes.
"We find we have a people that hate us. If they hate, they don't know God. So you know, we've got an enemy. So, things have changed. And we'll have to live with that change," Long Beach Mayor Billy Skellie told the crowd.
"It really caught us off guard," said Rupert Lacy.
Harrison County's emergency operations director cautioned everyone to remain vigilant. Lacy says citizens are truly the first line of defense.
"We have to remember, our safety starts first with you. If you see something, it needs to be called in. It needs to be reported. Let's hope that we don't see something massive happen again," said Lacy.
9/11 raised citizen awareness about the significance and sacrifice of America's first responders.
"They are the people that are on the front line. And our military component, these are the people that are out working day and night," said Lacy.
He brought the 9/11 tragedy close to home. He said a short time before September 11th, one of the terrorists who flew a plane into the towers had visited the Mississippi Gulf Coast, where he had taken a charter fishing boat trip from the Broadwater Marina.
Lacy says there's speculation that terrorist may have been gathering information about the return of the USS Cole to Ingalls Shipyard.