Remembering 9/11: Parkway Presbyterian honors Forsyth's first responders at Sunday luncheon
Parkway Presbyterian Church held its second annual first responder service and luncheon Sunday to honor them for their service to the community. Many could not attend due to preparations for Hurricane Irma. - photo by Jim Dean

For Forsyth County first responders and others across the nation, every day is unpredictable.

From fighting fires, crime and even hurricanes, their duty is to protect and serve, potentially giving their lives to help others.

That service was made abundantly clear at south Forsyth’s Parkway Presbyterian Church Sunday morning by the lack of firefighters, law enforcement personnel and paramedics at the church’s second annual first responder service and luncheon, most of whom could not attend because they had reported for duty in response to Hurricane Irma.

Despite the storm, the event, which honors local first responders, was a success, according to several members of Parkway Pres­byterian’s worship committee.

“We had a really good turnout from the congregation,” said Michele Saville, a committee member. “Most of [the county’s] police force and all fire force were on high alert so they couldn’t come, but those who did, we sent back with as much food as we could and we delivered meals to all of the county’s fire stations.

“I’m sorry that Irma disrupted it to the extent it did, but it was just a great event and we had a really good time.”

In total, Saville said the church served about 250 meals — more than twice as many than were served last year — and the event featured North Georgia College’s brass quartet.

“We feel like the [first responders] do so much for us and it’s our Christian responsibility to appreciate others, especially people who are willing to give their lives for you,” she said. “These people and their families make sacrifices so we can be safe and so it [also] makes sense logically that we honor them [close to September 11].

“These people gave their lives on that day, and it’s especially meaningful that we’d think of first responders around that day and [hold] an event where they felt safe and loved and appreciated.”


Deputy Escolando goes through the lunch line as he spends his meal break at Parkway Presbyterian Church on Bethelview Road during their annual first responder appreciation lunch. - photo by Jim Dean

Forsyth County Sheriff Ron Freeman, who attended the event, said he was thankful for the support of the community, especially shown by Parkway Presbyterian on Sunday.

“I continue to tell everybody we are blessed in Forsyth County,” he said. “I have seen a lot of places and worked around a lot of places [where] their public safety does not have any idea of what it’s like to have this kind of support.

“Everybody in this county has such great support for all our public safety responders, and I can’t imagine working in a place that loves on their police and their firefighters and their sheriff’s deputies more than Forsyth County.”

Timothy Still, chairman of Parkway Presbyterian’s worship committee, said while the county’s first responders are always supported, the church holds the event on or as close to Sept. 11 as possible to remember the 343 firemen, 60 police officers, eight EMTs and paramedics and one New York Fire Patrol patrolman who gave their lives to save others on Sept. 11, 2001.

“Of course, [Sept. 11] is one of the biggest days to remember the biggest sacrifice firefighters and law enforcement took on that day,” he said. “It’s a way to easily remember them, and we have [the luncheon] to tie that in at this time of the year and remember those that have fallen and those who serve.

“We have members and relatives of members who are first responders and we recognize those within our membership as well as those [outside] and how important it is for them to know people are reaching out to them.”

In addition to getting to every county fire station, Parkway Presbyterian’s meals reached the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office’s north and south precincts, Northside Hospital-Forsyth’s emergency department and others.

“[First responders] serve the community through bravery and sacrifice; they are the ones who run to danger when we run from it, and that’s why we wanted to show them they are appreciated and loved,” Still said. “We still feel very successful that we could reach them where they were even though they couldn’t be with us.”