Like most Americans, Ed Yunker of Brainerd vividly recalls what he was doing when Muslim extremists crashed the jetliners into the World Trade Center and Pentagon building Sept. 11.
The retired Potlatch worker had just entered the weight room of his area fitness club when the second plane struck the twin towers in lower Manhattan, Yunker said.
It's an image he will never forget, one that fueled his reserves of patriotism and love-of-country that burn just as strongly today, the 63-year-old Navy veteran said.
With the Sept. 11 anniversary just around the corner, Yunker and his colleagues in the Lakes Area Senior Singers are planning a public event to commemorate the date.
"The event will pay tribute not only to those who lost their lives that day but to our nation and to those who serve and have served to protect its freedoms," organizers said in a news release.
The program, designed and written by director Arleen Sycks, includes a litany of 26 patriotic and spiritual songs, a heart-tugging narrative and the reading of a poem, "What Am I Fighting For," by a now-deceased World War II chaplain.
It is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Sept. 11 in Tornstrom Auditorium at Washington Middle School in Brainerd.
Admission is free, but tickets should be obtained before Sept. 11 in Brainerd at The Brainerd Dispatch, The Crossing Arts Alliance, the Veterans of Foreign Wars or American Legion posts, the Brainerd Lakes Area Chambers of Commerce, Bremer Banks at Cub Foods, or the Lakewood Bank at Super One.
A freewill offering will be accepted at the gate.
Yunker, who sings bass in the 60-person chorus, said the tribute was "prompted by the fact that people have become more noticeably patriotic, and we wanted to give people another opportunity to observe the anniversary, to reinforce their feelings about our country."
Law enforcement and emergency workers will be singled out for special notice, with representatives from local agencies on hand for the event, Yunker said.
Images of national landmarks and other symbols of American history will be projected on an on-stage screen throughout the 80-minute tribute, he said.
Sycks, an 80-year-old retired music teacher, founded the Lakes Area Senior Singers shortly after moving into the Woodland Good Samaritan Village retirement home in 1997, Yunker said.
"She is not a person to sit around and let the time go by," Yunker said with a laugh, adding "music is a celebration of life and creating a singing group is what she wanted to do."
The group rehearses every Wednesday morning at Woodland Good Samaritan Village on Buffalo Hill Road in Brainerd, performing occasionally for retirement home residents, as well as an annual Christmas show for the public.
The Sept. 11 tribute marks the first time the Senior Singers have organized an event for the 950-seat auditorium, Yunker said.
Sycks, who spent much of her career in the Walker school system, has drafted the narrative, which will be read by Lew Hudson, and selected the songs for the program.
The songs will include "America the Beautiful," "This Is My Country," "Keep the Home Fires Burning," "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," "Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor" and many other standards from American history.
Yunker said the group is expecting a full house.
"We'd be really surprised if we didn't get a capacity crowd because of what it (the event) represents," he said.
So the audience is asked to arrive no later than 7:15 p.m.
Those who arrive without tickets will be admitted to the auditorium at that time, he said.
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