Miss-Lou pays 9/11 tribute with patriotic concert

Published 12:42 am Monday, September 12, 2011

Ben Hillyer | The Natchez Democrat — Mother nature was coordinating a beautiful light show with the MIss-Lou Celebrates America concert at the Vidalia Amphitheatre Sunday evening. Pat Delaune waves her flag during the singing of “God Bless America” as the clouds light up in the background.

Smiles, cheers and even tears punctuated a flag-speckled crowd of Miss-Lou residents as they pondered what patriotism means to them Sunday night.

A rainbow arches above the Vidalia Amphitheatre Sunday evening during the Miss-Lou Celebrates America tribute concert.

Approximately 1,000 people gathered to wave flags and commemorate America’s resilience at the Miss-Lou Celebrates America — A Patriotic Concert event at the Vidalia Amphitheatre.

The event was organized to pay tribute to those who died in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and to recognize first responders, veterans and active military who keep us safe.

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The meaning of 9/11 has a new significance for Robert Butler of Vidalia, as his son, William, prepares to deploy to the Middle East as a U.S. Marine.

William was only 9 years old when America was attacked 10 years ago, but the memory of that day continues to have a presence in his life. Butler said the family often talked about why it happened.

“He told me 9/11 is the reason he made the decision to join the Marines,” Butler said.

William is currently stationed at Camp Pendleton, Calif., awaiting deployment in March.

“Everyone is so proud — his mama and daddy especially,” Butler said.

Mississippi native Sam Haskell served as the celebrity emcee for the concert. Haskell is a former executive vice president of worldwide head of television for the Williams Morris agency. His wife, Mary Donnelly Haskell, a television movie actress and recording artist, sang at the concert.

Haskell said he sees a different America after 9/11, but no matter how much things have changed, the character, integrity and patriotism of the county has stayed the same.

Ben Hillyer | The Natchez Democrat — Mary Donnelly Haskell sings “Amazed by America.”

As 12-year-old John Ashton Hicks sang “God Bless the USA,” Adams County Extension Agent David Carter rode through on his horse, “Silverado,” waving the Cost of Freedom Flag depicting the images of 9/11.

The three mayors of the Miss-Lou, Glen McGlothin of Ferriday, Jake Middleton of Natchez and Hyram Copeland of Vidalia, shared a few words with the audience.

Middleton said the U.S. has a unique relationship with war. In earlier conflicts, war was sequestered to black and white photos and grainy footage. With the Vietnam conflict came nightly news updates. And Middleton said Americans didn’t seem to connect with more modern fights — like Desert Storm.

“Suddenly with 9/11, every American was thrown into war in a way that was unprecedented,” Middleton said.

Copeland said 9/11 should be viewed as another massive blow that Americans have overcome. He said after two world wars and innumerable natural disasters, we’re still here.

“Why?” Copeland asked. “It’s our people, like you, who make our country great.”

Louis DeVries, conductor of the St. Joseph Jazzers and Orchestra, invited veterans and service members to stand as the Jazzers played the march songs of each military branch.

Buster Jones of Natchez and his wife Syble took in the music and patriotism from their lawn chairs at the amphitheatre. Buster, a

Ben Hillyer | The Natchez Democrat — Seven-year-old Hunter Taylor, at top, waves his flag against as sunset lit backdrop.

U.S. Army veteran, said the event made him emotional.

“I started to cry a little bit,” Jones said. “I can’t explain why — it just touches me.”

Syble said the event was wonderful, and the organizers should be praised for their efforts.

A rainbow briefly hung in the partly cloudy sky at the concert as Mary Haskell sang “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”

“It was very special,” Syble said. “And to see that rainbow!”

Mary Lessley, who co-chaired the event, said she was in awe of the crowd, the people, the enthusiasm and excitement.

“It does bring tears to your eyes,” Lessley said. “We were the gold at the end of the rainbow.”

Lessley thanked the volunteers and sponsors, and said it was an enormously successful event.

“It was awesome,” she said.

ngie Huff, Aiden Huff and Ethan Huff join hands during the opening prayer to the event.

Ben Hillyer | The Natchez Democrat — David Carter rides Silverado across the back of the amphitheater carrying the “Cost of Freedon — Never Forget” flag.

Those who attended Sunday’s concert stood up and waved flags.

Ben Hillyer | The Natchez Democrat — The crowd says the pledge of allegiance during Sunday night's tribute concert.