By Shannon Jenkins
For the fifth consecutive year, the congregation of Ash Street Baptist Church recognized local public safety workers.
Of the departments represented during the special service Sunday in Forest Park were police officers, firefighters, EMS workers and military personnel from within Clayton County. Part of the service was also dedicated to the victims and heroes of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Randy Cheek, senior pastor at Ash Street, said the annual event was not a result of the attacks but was actually planned during the summer of 2001 for September of that year. The bombings occurred only days before the first event, and the church proceeded with the service. It has since become a tradition.
"I think it's important for any church to recognize public safety personnel," Cheek said. "They put their lives on the line daily for us. Today is a thank you and also a memorial for 9/11."
Among those officers in attendance was Forest Park Police Chief Dwayne Hobbs.
"We're very grateful to this community," Hobbs said. "They have always supported us."
After serving the community for 33 years, Hobbs said the annual church event was a humbling experience.
Several local city and county officials were present for the service, including Lake City Mayor Willie Oswalt, Forest Park Mayor Chuck Hall and Clayton County Commission Chairman Eldrin Bell.
U.S. Rep. David Scott, D-Ga., served as a special speaker.
From the pulpit, Scott said they were there to recognize those who demonstrate the biblical command "Love thy neighbor as thyself."
"There is no greater love you can have than laying down your life for someone else," Scott said, referencing those in public safety who often put themselves at risk to protect others.
During a prayer, Scott referred to safety personnel as "angels in the night."