FAIRHOPE – Fairhope commemorated the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 2001 terrorist attacks by recognizing the sacrifices of those serving during past and current disasters and the service of one local public servant.
On Friday, Sept. 10, Fairhope residents unveiled a memorial outside the city’s justice center and the city named the center for former Police Chief Joseph H. Petties.
“Today, we are here to honor the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, to honor our local police, healthcare workers, firefighters, paramedics and other first responders and to dedicate this building in the name of the former police chief, Joe Petties,” Mayor Sherry Sullivan said.
Petties served the city of Fairhope for almost 36 years, starting in the Public Works Department before joining the Police Department and working his way up through the ranks to chief in 2012. He left the position in 2018.
Joe came through the ranks of the city of Fairhope and along the way, he built relationships, earned trust, mentored younger employees and lived the life of a great leader,” Sullivan said. “Joe was, and still is, a Godly man who is loyal, has integrity and earned the respect of our community.”
Council President Jack Burrell said Petties was selected as chief from a pool of more than 100 applicants from across the country in 2012. He said he could think of only two other city buildings in Fairhope named for local leaders. Burrell said naming the Justice Center for Petties was a fitting recognition.
“There is no finer man that I have ever worked with in my life than Joe Petties,” Burrell said. “If you know him, you know that his life has been about service, service always above self and I’m so proud that we’re able to name this building after you chief.”
Petties thanked city officials and fellow Police Department members.
“I want to thank everyone who has sacrificed your time to be with me this morning to celebrate this great occasion. It’s just a blessing and I’m just so excited to see so many friends,” he said.
He said he had driven by the building several times and seen the new name on the facility.
“I’m just overwhelmed with that. My wife asked me yesterday. She said has it set in yet? And I said it’s slowly sinking in each time I pass by,” Petties said.
Sullivan said the memorial outside the Justice Center also recognizes the sacrifices made 20 years ago during terrorist attacks on the United States. The mayor said the event is also a commemoration of the efforts made by heroes in more recent struggles.
“Today, we also honor those healthcare workers who have been on the frontlines of our current battle,” Sullivan said. “Much like the 9/11 terrorist attacks, we have lost some of the freedoms that we take for granted every day. These healthcare heroes -- doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, administrators – have never hesitated to serve and protect the patients fighting this virus. Many are their neighbors, friends, church members and sometimes even their own family.”
Bob Weltlich, chairman of the Fairhope Memorial Committee, said these heroes have served long before and since Sept. 11, 2001.
“Even though first responders, veterans, teachers and other essential workers have been around for hundreds of years, their roles in serving and protecting us have become even more pronounced with the advent of the 21st Century,” Weltlich said. “Now the battles are not as clearly defined, nor fought just against enemies on foreign soil, but instead, we are also faced with terrorism and tragedy at home, especially since 9/11, which we’re honoring today, and throughout the weekend, things have dramatically taken on a new look as evidenced by our involvement in conflicts such as Afghanistan, Iraq, cybersecurity problems, challenges to our national security from the likes of Russia, China, North Korea and extremist groups both abroad and domestically that would undermine our very democracy.”
The memorial features a bald eagle and American flag. It was paid for through donations and with the sponsorship of the Fairhope Rotary Club, supporters said.