ELIZABETH - About 75 people gathered Friday evening at the Wirt County Courthouse for a candlelight vigil to mark the 10th anniversary of the rescue of Jessica Lynch, including Lynch herself.
Wirt County Assessor Debbie Hennen said Friday's program had its roots in a spontaneous vigil, which occurred at the courthouse on April 1, 2003, as word spread among residents of Lynch's home county that she had been rescued from captivity in Iraq.
Lynch, a private first class in the U.S. Army, was injured and captured on March 23, 2003, when her convoy was ambushed by Iraqi forces. She was rescued nine days later from an Iraqi hospital by members of the U.S. Special Operations Forces, on April 1, 2003.
Jessica Lynch was among the Wirt County residents who spoke Friday evening during a candlelight vigil at the Wirt County Courthouse in Elizabeth to celebrate the 10th anniversary of her rescue by American forces following her capture while serving in Iraq. (Photo by Wayne Towner)
Hundreds gathered to celebrate Lynch's safe recovery by American forces on that night 10 years ago. Hennen said she was at baseball practice when she learned about the rescue. She rushed home and continued following the news on television until someone told her people were gathering on the courthouse lawn.
"We just celebrated that evening," Hennen said. "We had had one several days before- a candlelight vigil - praying for her safe return. Our prayers were answered."
Friday's vigil lasted for about 30 minutes in the windy and chilly evening on the courthouse lawn. Several people spoke about their memories of the events 10 years ago and, like Hennen, recounted what they were doing and how they felt when they received the news about Lynch.
The vigil had been planned for the anniversary on April 1, but the organizers moved it to Friday evening because Lynch wanted to attend and was in Charleston on that date, Hennen said.
Lynch said Friday's event was a celebration of her return 10 years ago, but went beyond that.
"It's not only for me, but this is to rejoice and hopefully bring home the rest of the soldiers that are fighting overseas," she said.
The support she has received from her family, friends and community has helped sustain her over the past decade, Lynch said.
"I have always had their support and they've continued to do that over the past 10 years," she said.