Pat Floyd looked out at the front rows of the Van Orsdel United Methodist Church Sunday morning. They were filled with officers from the Havre Police and Fire departments, the Hill County Sheriff's Department and the U. S. Border Patrol.
Members of the parish thought it would be a good idea to pay tribute to emergency responders on the day the country was marking the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy. They sent out an invitation to first responders throughout the county.
The officers and their families were treated to a breakfast before the 11 a. m. service. They then proceeded into the service accompanied by the music of the bagpiper Erik Kean of the South Alberta Pipes and Drums Band, a group that performs annually at Havre Festival Days.
"We invited you to honor you for your work," said Pat Floyd, an organizer of the effort. "But you honor us by your presence here."
While adults paid tribute to the first responders, children got a first-hand lesson on firefighting work.
Young people were called to the altar where Havre firefighter Kelly Jones explained the clothing firefighters wear when they fight a fire.
Jones gave the children a history lesson reminding them that the church burned down in the 1950s.
"No one was injured, and a new church was built, and we moved on," he said.
He said that as tragic as 9/11 was, faith has helped people move on.
The clothing firefighters wear protects them from heat and flames, he said. But more importantly, trust in other firefighters helps keep them safe. Firefighters sometimes have differences in the station, he said, but because they believe in forgiveness, the theme of Sunday's Bible readings, they work as a team during a fire.
"And most important, we get protection from God," he said.
Jones also explained the Christian background to the Maltese Cross, the eight-point figure worn by most firefighters.
"We are willing to protect everybody, and we are willing to give up everything to provide that protection," he told the children.
The choir sang "God Bless America," and led the congregation in singing "My Country 'tis of Thee," and officers read from the scriptures.
Pastor Cleveland McSwain recalled the moments he learned about the attacks, when he was teaching at a college in the Marshall Islands.
"My students told me the United States was being attacked," he said. "I thought they were kidding."
He thanked local officers for doing what they do for the community.
McSwain asked: What would Jesus say to the officers if he were in Havre?
"Well done good and faithful servant," McSwain said quoting from St. Matthew's gospel.
The congregation rose for a standing ovation.
As the officers prepared to process out of the church, once again led the bagpipe player, McSwain warned the congregation: "Now, the next time you get a speeding ticket, don't say anything bad about them."