By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
It was Monday, September 11 when we met for our usual appointment. The mayor and Holly Hollman checked to make sure that the colors were posted half-staff, and we began our conversation with all of the wonderful-yet-somber events of the weekend.
The mayor was part of the parade that was part of Super-Heroes Day, which took place in Athens’ Big Spring Park on Saturday, September 9, and was dedicated to the young warriors who have battled with childhood cancer, along with their families. Originally it was called Eli’s Block Party in memory of Eli Williams of Athens, who passed away in 2017 at the age of 12. He had been diagnosed with cancer at the age of seven, and since then the Block Party has grown to the place that the park is filled with families, kids in superhero costumes, vendors, adults in superhero costumes, food, celebration, and a dogged determination to remember those who are either battling childhood cancer have completed their battle. Tina Morrison and an extended crew made for a memorable day, and the weather was perfect. “Eli absolutely loved Mustangs,” (as in the car) said Mayor Ronnie, and mentioned that there is a car show in his honor each year in the spring.
Also on September 9 was the annual Travis Manion 9/11 Heroes’ Run, which was held in Downtown Athens. Nearly 400 people came to “run and remember” not only Travis Manion, who died in Iraq in 2007, but also the first responders who perished in the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center in 2001. USN Commander Todd Sullivan (Retired) gave the address at the ceremony, and then proceeded to run the race with a “ruck” (added weight in a backpack) after recently having had knee replacement surgery. Commander Sullivan told me with a grin that he knew he hadn’t placed but that it still felt good to complete the race. Travis Manion said before he left for his last deployment the now famous battle cry of the organization, “If not me…then who?” Answering that question well serves to give direction and purpose to young and old.
Also in remembrance of 9/11, three Athens Fire Department firefighters, Eli Boydston, Tyler Helms, and Jeremy Mclaughlin completed an arduous challenge that was held at the Sportsplex. They replicated what it would have been like (without smoke, heat, and terror) to run up all one hundred ten stories of the World Trade Center. They “rucked” as well by adding a vest. Forty-year-old Jeremy McLaughlin came in first, having run the simulated steps (which totaled 2071 steps in a pre-set sequence) in 13 minutes and 12 seconds. “That’s just freaky,” said Mayor Ronnie in a good way, marveling at the speed Jeremy produced. “This needs to be national news,” added the mayor. I told him I would do my part to make it so.
And then that time came again — we prayed, for our country, for our kids, and for our town, and it was time for Ronnie to roll.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner