EDINBURG — Girl Scouts and Edinburg first responders walked side-by-side in silence Wednesday afternoon. Making sure to step over puddles of rain, the group of over 200 people participated in a procession from City Hall to the Edinburg Volunteer Fire Department.
Waving American flags and holding posters that read “We love our first responders,” scouts who participated at the fifth annual Edinburg Girl Scouts Patriot Day commemorated 9/11 by honoring their local firemen, police officers and paramedics.
Mara Lee Moats, the event’s founder, commenced the tribute walk by leading everyone through the Girl Scout’s Promise. In unison, the girls raised their right hands and recited the pledge from memory. Then, they locked arms with their fellow troop mates and headed toward the fire department.
Blocks of tan, teal and brown stood out in the procession’s line-up from the girls’ uniforms, which represents their rank. All 40 Edinburg Girl Scouts were invited to attend.
Moats’ idea to start the event stemmed from her desire for Edinburg Girl Scouts to learn about the importance of honoring their first responders. And since the first walk in 2015, the procession has only grown.
“It’s not just people that are being added to the ceremony, it’s people who are coming back,” said Moats, whose 11-year-old daughter, Lennon Lee Moats is a Junior Girl Scout of Troop No. 407. “Clearly, people want to give gratitude to these men and women of service, and that makes me feel great.”
When the group arrived to the fire department, parents were already there capturing their daughters’ arrival in video. The silence broke as everyone gathered at the station’s garage, where respondents were asked to take a seat for the ceremony, something Edinburg Fire Chief Shawn Snider noted was different.
“The opportunity for them to come and us to sit is kind of interesting because it is usually the opposite,” Snider said. “We are appreciative that they pick us to come and honor — we appreciate the support.”
Lennon was the ceremony leader of the evening, and on stage, surrounded by the other Girl Scouts, told first responders: “You are our protectors, our saviors, our heroes and our friends. We know you have a very difficult job and we want you to know that we are appreciative of you.”
Ava Palacios of Troop No. 407 led the pledge of allegiance, and Ashley Quilantan of Troop No. 160, Addison Maldonado and Deliah Camarillo led the “prayer of remembrance.”
Afterwards, the scouts distributed their gifts to the first responders. Girls of all ages were handing out decorated cupcakes and gift baskets, while a wagon of Thanks-a-lot Girl Scout cookies wheeled around. Hugs were also exchanged, as well as photos taken while members of local law enforcement and emergency services stood with their hands full of gifts.
The sincerity wasn’t lost on Snider, who remembers the first plane crashing into the North World Trade Center tower.
“I watched what happened that day, everyone was glued to the TV,” Snider recalled. “We were all here, wishing that we could be there helping out.
“We just wanted to get on a plane and help out.”
Snider said he was glad to see the country rally together at the time.
“Everyone was proud to be an American, everyone was enraged about what occurred and everyone wanted to do as much as they could for their communities, and that is what shaped us into what we are today,” Snider spoke of Sept. 12, 2001.
Moats agreed with Snipes, in that the unity that sprouted from the events should be practiced.
“There were millions standing in line to give blood, and all the American flags had been sold out in Targets and Walmarts,” Moats, the professional learning supervisor for the Edinburg Consolidated Independent School District, said. “Everyone just came together, we weren’t red or blue, Republican or Democratic, we were just Americans.”
Moats, like Snider, said she will never forget where she was on the day of the attack. She was a theater teacher at B. L. Garza Middle School at the time, and was eating breakfast with her students when she heard the news.
“The ceremony and walk are just a small part,” Moats said. “It is something they can continue all year after the ceremony. We want to teach them to carry that respect year-round.”
Eight-year-old Hannah Piña, a brownie of Troop No. 3011, spoke of first responders’ bravery to run into danger to help others.
“It takes honesty, loyalty, and it also takes bravery,” she said.
“I feel happy because they probably have saved so many people,” Piña later added.