For Bartow County Fire Chief Craig Millsap, the prayers were especially meaningful in light of the first responders' efforts following the F3 tornado that struck northeast Bartow. Along with clearing fallen trees and responding to injured individuals when the storm initially hit on April 27 to more recently helping area churches organize the distribution of food and needed items to tornado victims, he said his department is dedicated to helping people regain a sense of normalcy.
"It's a great honor for us for people to do this for us," Millsap said. "We don't get into this business wanting glory or recognition or anything like that. But to be recognized for what we do on a daily basis does make you feel good from that standpoint, especially coming out of some times like we've had over the past week.
"Many times I talked with several of my firemen and my battalion chiefs and other people and the only thing that we pray for is, 'Please just give us strength to get through this. So we can reach back and get more out of reserve on ourselves to push even further to provide the aid that we do and do the job that we do.' To know that people are out there praying for us like that helps to add that strength we need to continue to do what we do."
Prior to asking those in attendance to pray for the observance's guests of honor, The Church at Liberty Square's Rev. Joe E. Edwards addressed the crowd.
"We are here today to recognize that this is the most generous nation upon the face of the Earth. If we are to remain that then we must come together today and honor people who serve according to the Bible in a way that is very, very important," said Edwards, chairman of the event's planning committee.
"When that storm swept across this county in the darkness of night ... those who we have come to honor -- with no lights -- they made their way to the area that they knew people were hurting with the danger of fallen wires that yet were alive. In the midst of the pitch darkness -- other than the lights that they themselves carried -- they came to reach the people that they care for.
"That's why today we asked these men and women to come, those who defend us and those who help us in times of the need of safety. We've come to say to them, 'We believe that God has ordained you to wear that uniform. We believe that God has ordained you to be a first responder. ... We want to [say here] today that we have come here not only to salute you, but we have come here to pray for you.'"
The noon service outside the Frank Moore Administration and Judicial Center in Cartersville also featured a community choir and words of encouragement by David Franklin -- associational missionary for the Bartow Baptist Association and a member of Bartow's National Day of Prayer committee.
Created by a joint resolution of the U.S. Congress in 1952, the National Day of Prayer was signed into law by President Harry S. Truman and is recognized annually on the first Thursday of May. To commemorate this effort, local government officials played a key role in Thursday's observance. In addition to the event being held at the courthouse, Bartow County Commissioner Clarence Brown as well as the mayors of local municipalities signed a proclamation to mark its significance.
Addressing the crowd, Brown read the proclamation, which encouraged "fellow citizens of Bartow County and each municipality to join us in earnest prayer for our county, our state and our nation, asking [that] God's light may illuminate the minds and hearts of our people and our leaders, so that we may meet the challenges that lie before us with courage, wisdom and justice."
In all, the National Day of Prayer's offerings were anticipated to draw nearly 5,000 people. Along with the noon program, there also was a ministers' prayer meeting at 11 a.m. and a 7 p.m. gathering at the Cartersville High School stadium, which was headlined by country singer Josh Turner and highlighted the faith-based efforts of local youth.