The crowd gathered on the Crawford County Courthouse lawn to pay tribute to those who serve and protect and remember the lives lost in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks were reminded how life is good for residents of the area.
"It is great to be in the River Valley where we can pray out loud," said David King, the emcee for the 9/11 memorial and call to prayer.
Crawford County Judge John Hall urged the crowd of 200 to be thankful for any gathering.
"Any time we can gather to be here together is a blessing," he said. "We can never let our vigilance down and I thank God we have a country that God leads and a military that can back it up."
Hall said, "It is up to us to continue to keep alive the memory of what can happen to a country that is as good-hearted as we are when evil people want to hurt and destroy us."
The county judge also recalled the Sept. 13, 2011, Crawford County Courthouse shooting. James Ray Palmer Kibler fired shots throughout the historic building, injuring Circuit Judge Gary R. Cottrell’s trial court assistant Vicki Jones before exiting the building and being killed in a shootout with law enforcement.
"While we remember 9/11 and the lives lost that day, we also need to remember what didn’t happen here on 9/13 and that is the fact that we lost no lives in an incident that could have been a devastation to us," Hall said.
Dale Brunk of Roland, who was in New York City on business the morning of Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001, was the featured speaker for the memorial.
Brunk was on the 61st floor of the south tower of the World Trade Center when the first plane struck.
The attacks were a series of four coordinated attacks launched by international terrorist organization al-Qaeda that claimed the lives of almost 3,000 people, including those on the four hijacked passenger airliners, two of which crashed into the World Trade Center towers, one into the Pentagon and one into an open field in western Pennsylvania.
"I remember seeing papers fly past the window, thinking it was a parade," Brunk said. "Then I noticed chunks of burning concrete falling to the ground below."
Brunk recalled exiting the building and looking above his head to see each tower with damage from the attacks.
"It was surreal … It was my second day in New York City and I was fortunate to remember where to go, from studying a map the night before," he said. "I got back to my hotel and had to check in with the FBI as a survivor of the attacks on the World Trade Center."
Brunk credited God for his escape. "God has plans for all things," he said.
"I tell people when you pray, God gives you control and calmness in times of chaos," he said. "9/11 is a special day in my heart, because I was in the buildings and I am humbled and privileged to be here."
Prayers were offered by Van Buren Mayor Bob Freeman for city employees; Chief Kenneth Bell, police; Capt. Marvin Stout, firefighters; Dr. Jeffrey Hamby, medical; Maj. Mike Akins, Army; Master Gunnery Sgt. Michael Holcomb, Marines; Lt. Col. Tom Smith, the chaplain for the 188th Fighter Wing, Air Force; Cmdr. Mike Cheetham, Navy; and Col. Wes Hilliard Sr., chaplain for the Arkansas National Guard, emergency management, search and rescue and pastors.