Two gatherings of first responders in Bryan County Sunday morning marked the 15th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
A bell was rung at the Veterans Memorial in J.F. Gregory Park as Richmond Hill Fire Chief Ralph Catlett read off the events of that day, marking a tradition that dates back 200 years at firefighter funerals known as “Last Alarm.”
The tradition recalls a time when a bell was used to call firefighters to action and rung again to mark the end of a call.
At the Bryan County Fallen Firefighters Memorial an American flag hung from an extended ladder of a Bryan County Emergency Services truck, another firefighter funeral tradition.
“It’s hard to believe it’s been 15 years,” Richmond Hill Fire Chief Ralph Catlett said at the ceremony in J.F. Gregory Park. “I try to explain it to my grandchildren. We never want to relive that day, but we remember it and honor the memory of the firefighters, police officers and first responders who rushed into danger when others ran away.”
Several firefighters and police officers were on hand at J.F. Gregory Park for the observance, along with elected officials and families. At the same time, BCES was holding its 2nd Annual Walk 2 Remember 343 behind the Bryan County Administration Building on Capt. Matthew Freeman Drive.
“All over the country people are gathering to climb stairs in memory of the fallen from 9-11,” BCES Chief Freddy Howell said. “We don’t have stairs, so walking is the best we can do.”
Attendees there then moved to the trail that circles the small lake next to the county building. Participants were able to buy T-shirts with the names of 343 firefighters who died in the World Trade Center attacks, with the proceeds going to support the South Bryan Volunteer Firefighters Association.
Richmond Hill Police Chief Billy Reynolds recalled 9-11 as “the most horrific tragedy of our lifetime” and said first responders answered the call of duty without hesitation.
“They sacrificed all for the safety of others and deserve to have their sacrifice remembered.”