Local officials remembered 9/11 during a ceremony Thursday morning at the Firefighter Memorial at the Bryan County Adminstrative Complex in South Bryan.
County Emergency Services Chief Freddy Howell was among those who spoke. He recalled he was the assistant chief training officer for the Waycross Fire Department on Sept. 11, 2001 when the attacks occurred.
"I was conducting a high-rise drill in the stairway of a five-story building," Howell said. "I was on about the third floor when the chief called me and told me a plane had hit the World Trade Center and for us to wrap up the training and get back to the stations."
He and another firefighter went back to the station and saw the second plane hit the second WTC tower, "at which time we all called our family and friends to to tell them and check on them. Then we set down and were glued to the TV the rest of the day."
Howell said the nearly 3,000 people who died in the attacks included thousands of civilians and the firefighters, EMTs. paramedics and police officers who rushed to help them. He also spoke of the $10 billion in damage caused when terrorists hijacked airliners and flew them into the towers, and then brought the tragedy closer to home.
"The population of Pembroke and Groveland is around 3,000 people," Howell said. "The attack on Sept. 11 basically wiped out a town the size of Pembroke and the community of Groveland."
"But this morning, let's think of it like this," Howell continued. "Those were moms and dads, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends ... grandpas and grandmas. Those 3,000 people started their day just like you and I do every day. They left their home going to work to try to make a living. Some were hoping to get married, some were hoping to take a vacation, some were trying to pay their way through college or pay for their kids' college."
The attack also changed the lives of family members. "Think about all the Christmas mornings that will never be the same to those families," Howell said.
And, while asking that people remember the victims, Howell sounded a note of hope, recalling his meeting in 2010 New York firefighter Jay Jonas, who on 9/11 responded to the attacks and after a grueling 3-1/2 hour ordeal helped save the life of Josephine Harris, who as the building collapsed was trapped in a stairway on the 20th floor with legs injured from a car wreck two weeks earlier.
"We should all keep our hope," Howell said. "Remember Jay Jonas and Josephine Harris, who without hope would never have survivied. We haven't been forgotten and we have a God who is still in charge. We will never forget."
Also speaking were County Commission Chairman Jimmy Burnsed, Richmond Hill Fire Chief Ralph Catlett, and retired Army aviator Rick Gardner, who won the Republican nomination for the District 5 County Commission seat in May and is currently unopposed in the upcoming general election.