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Family Fest stirs hope
Thousands reflect on 9/11 anniversary
Royce Owens visits the 9/11 Memorial Museum on Sunday during the Forsyth Family Fest at the Cumming Fairgrounds. - photo by Autumn McBride

Thousands of Forsyth County residents turned out Sunday to remember those lost in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The third annual Forsyth Family Fest, a large gathering organized by numerous area churches, was held at the Cumming Fairgrounds.

Since the event fell on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, leaders decided to focus on remembering the attacks, while also celebrating hope.

Tom Hayslip, one of the organizers, estimated as many as 10,000 people attended.

"But that’s definitely an estimation," he said. "Some of those numbers could be duplicates since some people came in the morning, then went home for a while and came back later in the day.

"But we were very pleased. It was a steady turnout all day."

Pastor Bob Jolly of Cumming First Baptist Church said the event began with a 10 a.m. worship service, which drew a crowd of more than 3,000.

"It was a wonderful service," he said. "The focus of the ceremony was hope out of hopelessness."

Ginny Kirby said her family came primarily for the service.

"My husband, Kurt, is a member of the National Guard, so all this means a lot to us," Kirby said.

The day continued with a number of family-friendly offerings, including live music, inflatables and children’s rides.

A favorite location for many was the 9/11 Memorial Museum, which was set up to remember the tragedy and those who lost their lives in New York City, at the Pentagon and western Pennsylvania, while also honoring local emergency officials.

The museum featured a number of poster-sized paintings by students at local middle and high schools, news stories about the day and quotes from those who survived the attacks.

There were also lists of all local law enforcement, fire and emergency medical personnel, as well as the names of those who died on 9/11.

Peggy Highton brought her 8-year-old grandson, Sabastion Highton, to the museum.

"I thought it was important to teach [him] what happened and why it happened," said Highton, adding that due to his age he "has no clue … how horrific it was."

Hayslip said he especially enjoyed seeing children learning about 9/11.

"It’s so touching to be here and see kids that were probably less than 2 years old when it happened," Hayslip said.

He added that about 25 students from Horizon Christian Academy helped set up chairs inside the fairground’s covered arena for the morning worship service and evening concerts.

"To see [the children’s] faces is very special," Hayslip said.

The festivities continued Sunday night with musical performances and presentations to local emergency service officials and their families.

Jolly said a number of Christian recording artists performed, as did members of musical groups from all five Forsyth County public high schools.

"I feel so blessed to live in a community where so many people are willing to give their time and talents to commemorate in such positive way what was such a horrible event," Jolly said.

Hayslip added that they "wanted this to be a day of hope."

"That day felt completely hopeless, but we know that with the Lord there’s always hope," he said.