KINGSPORT, Tenn. — With tears in her eyes as she remembered where she was on Sept. 11, 2001, Heather Eades spent time giving back Wednesday on the 18th anniversary of the terrorist attacks.
Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee held a Day of Service in tribute to the victims and first responders by calling on volunteers to help feed the hungry in its eight-county service area.
Known as 9/11 and Patriot Day, Sept. 11 is an annual day of remembrance across the nation of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon that rocked the nation. Another plane was also headed for the U.S. Capitol, but the terrorists piloting it were thwarted by passengers, and the aircraft plummeted into a field in Pennsylvania. In all, nearly 3,000 people were killed.
Eades, of Bristol, Tennessee, had recently got engaged, and her fiancé was in Atlanta, Georgia, on a business trip at the time. He, like many others across the nation, wasn’t able to travel because airports were shut down in the hours following the attacks.
“I was trying to get in touch with him, and I couldn’t,” Eades said. “They thought at that point Atlanta might be a target. … I hadn’t lived through anything quite like that, so I think there was a lot of shock, and you’re scared. It was just shock that it had happened.”
Eades and her 14-year-old son, James, are regular volunteers at Second Harvest, but helping out on Wednesday to pay tribute to the 9/11 victims and first responders was special to them. James wore red, white and blue as he packed boxes with food items.
Ashley Campbell, programs coordinator at Brookdale Senior Living, also brought out four women who live at the facility to volunteer. They formed an assembly line at a table to label and pack crackers into boxes for Second Harvest’s senior grocery program.
“It’s nice to be able to come in and help,” Clara Saylor said.
Harriet Luster called the time she spent volunteering “wonderful.”
“It’s a day of remembrance,” said Rick Hughes, Second Harvest’s volunteer coordinator. “It’s a day to be proud to be an American — to give back. … There’s things that people can do in their community, helping out, feeding people on a day like this. It’s a blessing and an honor.”
Hughes recruited several regular volunteers for the Day of Service, including a group of retiree friends who help out every month. The women said they never like to miss out on volunteering, so when they found out about Wednesday being a special day to help, they were even more excited to lend a hand. Teretha Akins and Mary Stapleton have been volunteering at Second Harvest for 10 years.
“We enjoy it,” Akins said. “It’s one of my things that I do feel like I’m being of service to someone again.”
She and her group of friends helped pack bags for Second Harvest’s Food for Kids Backpack Program.