Bay Reflections
Vol. 9, No. 38
September 20-26, 2001
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A Harvest of Heroes
by Patricia Kirby

While Calvert County honored its local heroes, terrorists were writing a long new role of national heroes

I’d looked forward to Tuesday, September 11, for some time. That day, Calvert County’s winner of the Maryland’s Most Beautiful People award would be announced and later compete at the state level. The nominees and those of us who’d made nominations were invited to an 11am ceremony at the courthouse.

Fellow North Beacher Connie Cambron and I had independently nominated the same couple. On learning of the coincidence, we’d agreed to drive together to the ceremony. Along the winding road, everything was pretty and pastoral as usual. The bright morning reflected the happy occasion. Our spirits were high. The only news we were expecting was the announcement of the winner.

Unaware of the tragic events — some happening even as we drove — we arrived early. Our biggest concern was whether we’d find a parking space, often a premium in old-town Prince Frederick. But that was no problem. In the courtroom, we quickly got caught up following a fascinating petition for the Royle House to receive historic designation. So did others filling the courtroom for the ceremony.

David F. Hale, president of the county commissioners, left the dais a few times, but I thought nothing of it. On one return, he said the World Trade towers had “now fallen.” Connie and I looked at each other. Say what? Someone nearby muttered something about the Pentagon and Pennsylvania. Maybe we hadn’t heard right.

The petition continued, weaving the house’s history. A connection was made with the well-known Doctor Hugh Ward and the more than 5,000 babies he’d delivered, and everyone laughed when Commissioner Robert L. Swann remarked that he’d been one of them. The designation vote was unanimous. The current homeowner thanked everyone. Everything was wrapped in cheery homespun.

What was going on outside?

The petitioners left the mike. Three of the county’s chief law enforcers took their place. One said the naval base at Lexington Park would protect the county, especially its nuclear plant. From whom? Although schools and government buildings were being closed, including the courthouse, our festivities could go on, at least for a while. Was something headed our way to interrupt them?

Genial emcee Herman E. Schieke, county tourism promoter, took the mike. Never, he said, had his office received so many award nominations: 30 in all. He told us we’d be impressed when we heard all the things the nominees had done. He was right. Indeed, I thought, the rich diversity of their contributions reflected the harvest in the county’s abundant fields. Would the harvest now be gathered?

State awards director Floraine Applefeld also saw imagery in the morning’s events. Delayed in traffic driving from Baltimore for her scheduled slot at the ceremony, she arrived in time to say a few words. Tossing aside whatever else she’d planned to say, she commented that the time she’d spent on the road had given her a chance to think how the awards mirrored our country’s long volunteer tradition. What kind of volunteers would be needed for whatever had happened?

These warm moments helped dissolve for a moment the haze of the looming outside news. Any of the nominees could have been named the winner. But there could be only one. It was Ruth N. Reid of Huntingtown, a most worthy choice even though not the nominee I’d put forward. What a hard choice it must have been for the judges, one of whom was Bay Weekly’s own Sandra Martin.

The names of other heroes would soon replace those we honored as Calvert County’s nominees as Maryland’s Most Beautiful People. Perhaps it’s better to say they’d soon be blended, for the county has already provided many heroes. I thought of this as Connie and I joined a prayer circle that had formed around the flagpole outside the courthouse. There, on the memorial rock we surrounded, were the names of many Calvert countians who had fallen in war. How many more heroes with names on neither rocks nor awards lists there must, and will, be — not only in these tragic days but in others yet to come?

Copyright 2001
Bay Weekly