When the going gets rough, you lean on one another. That's the message Shirley Sims is hoping to spread.
Sims welcomes veterans to her home throughout the year to shower them with affection and feed them a good meal as a sign of her respect.
It's a tradition she's carried on for years in memory of her late husband, a Marine veteran who died from cancer in 2015.
"This is about showing love. This is my passion," Sims said. "We embrace, we talk, we laugh."
On the anniversary of 9/11, Sims decided it was time to open her doors once again so that no one had to go through this tough day alone.
Veterans, active duty military and other members of the community showed up for the event.
Jerry Guinn, an Air Force veteran, still remembers the pain he felt 17 years ago.
"It was a sad day, it's hard to even describe what it felt like," Guinn said. "I think we need to remember. Jesus said 'blessed are the peacekeepers' and not only are the military peacekeepers, but also the first responders. We don't ever want to forget that."
Sims' friend, Debbie Quarles, is grateful to be surrounded by others on this somber occasion.
"There's no place I would rather be today than here," Quarles said. "To be part of a local group that is honoring the memory of those who lost their lives and to celebrate what our responders do for us."
Sims asked some people to stand up and share their thoughts. Others sang praises and played patriotic songs.
Marine Sgt. Juan Romero-Velazquez drove all the way from Killeen for this event.
"I feel like it's important for every red-blooded American to come out to these events and show their patriotism and pay their respects for those who went before us," Romero-Velazquez said.
While no one will forget the day fueled by hate, Sims is reminding everyone that a different four-letter word will keep us all moving forward.
"Love," Sims said. "Once you've got love, love conquers all."
Sims will open up her home again on Oct. 20 for her annual luncheon that celebrates the life of her late husband and other veterans who courageously serve.
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