Kroger employee Rebecca Hamilton played “Taps” in front of a gathering at the front of the store during a 9/11 dedication ceremony.

Employees, customers, Aiken High School NJROTC students and Aiken County officers were all present to pay homage to the victims and public safety officials from the 2001 tragedy.

“Events like this give us a chance to reflect back and remember our lost loved ones and also honor our officers,” Hamilton said. “I’ve been playing trumpet since middle school, so it’s great to be able to play during the ceremony and show my support.”

As Hamilton alluded to, officers were given a round of applause by Kroger staffers and customers for their efforts. As store Inclusion Council Chair Shari Bechtold stated, first response officers operate on demanding work schedules and have made sacrifices for their respective communities.

“We have first responders from the police force and fire department present, and it’s just to show them how much we appreciate their efforts,” Bechtold said. “We went bigger with the program this year so we could reemphasize our faith in this country and our respect for our officers and military.”

“It’s great that local people remember the events of 9/11 and how they’ve affected all first responders throughout the nation,” said Brian Brazier with the patrol fire division of Public Safety. “We humbly serve our community, and that’s what it’s all about – protecting our citizens.”

In addition to honoring the officers, Kroger also organized several pieces of artwork, flags and other memorabilia that was sponsored by the Aiken Center for the Arts. After the ceremony, Kroger provided breakfast for the local first responders as another token of appreciation.

“It’s just our way of letting everyone know that we care,” said William Boatwright, a manager at Kroger. “We support our fire department, police, and first responders. They do a great job locally, and we truly appreciate them.”

Derrek Asberry is a beat reporter with the Aiken Standard news team and joined the paper in June. He is originally from Vidalia, Ga., and graduated from Georgia Southern University with a journalism degree in May 2012.