JEFFERSON — On the eighteenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center which left thousands dead, local officials will gather to pray for members of law enforcement.

The “Shield a Badge with Prayer” rally will be 6:30 p.m. at the Ashtabula County Peace Officers Memorial, 25 W. Jefferson St. The rally, in its fourth year, offers prayers to law enforcement and first responders.

Judge Harold Specht, an organizer of the event who serves as the master of ceremonies, said the event was born out of a need to recognize law enforcement across the country and in the county.

Specht, who said he was always known as a police officer’s prosecutor in his prior role with the county prosecutor’s office, said members of law enforcement receive “despicable treatment” on a daily basis from the public.

The rally is a time to let the men and women of law enforcement know that mistreatment of police will not be tolerated.

“It started as an impromptu rally and it grew from there every year,” Specht said. “This year we’re expecting a large turnout and all departments have been notified.”

On Sept. 11, 2001, terrorists hijacked planes which they flew into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and one crashed in a field in Shanksville, Penn.

In the end nearly 3,000 people died in an event that has gone down as the largest act of terror in the United States.

While Wednesday’s rally will serve as a memorial to law enforcement and first responders, Charlie Frye, director of the Ashtabula County Board of Elections, who helps organize the event, said first responders and the events of Sept. 11, 2001, are intertwined.

“First responders never know when a call might be their last,” Frye said. “It’s fitting when you look at Sept. 11 that people were running out of the towers while first responders were running in. We should be thankful that we’ve got people doing these jobs.”

Specht said he will never forget hearing the news of planes crashing into buildings. At the time he was working as an assistant prosecutor on cases in Western County Court before Judge Richard Stevens. On that day Stevens closed the court after the second plane hit the complex.

“I heard that a second plane hit the other tower and I immediately put two and two together and said ‘this is a terrorist attack,’” Specht said. “I’ll never forget that day when Judge Stevens shut down the court that day.”

Pastors who will speak at the event are Sean Hampton, Senior Pastor, Ashtabula First Church of the Nazarene; Pastor Roger Loomis, Hope Community Church in Jefferson; Pastor Curtis Cecil, Jefferson Nazarene Church and Pastor Scott Ardary, Pentecostal Community Church.

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