By Sarah Lundgren and Gordon Jackson - The Brunswick News
Dignitaries, law enforcement and others gathered at the Glynn County fire station in Ballard to remember those who lost their lives in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks 14 years ago.
The almost 3,000 who perished at the World Trade Center, Pentagon and in the wreckage of United Airlines Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pa., isn’t just a grand figure, said Glynn County Police Chief Matt Doering, lead speaker for the remembrance ceremony.
“They all had their individual life stories,” Doering said, speaking to the group. “Have a humble heart. We know we can be a greater nation and I think we will.”
Doering asked the crowd to reflect on each individual who died that day.
“There were 71 peace officers who lost their lives, too. It’s the greatest love anyone can give,” Doering said. “We should always remember not only what they did but the firefighters across the country, the peace officers who put their lives on the line every day.”
Almost 350 firefighters from various units around the country also lost their lives that day, said Hal Herndon, deputy chief of operations and acting chief of the Glynn County Fire Department.
Having been in the firefighting service for 29 years at the time of the attacks, he knew exactly what they were walking into and reminded the crowd they were people who would do it all again to save fellow countrymen.
“I believe everyone of us can remember exactly where we were that morning,” Herndon said. “I thought about the firefighters and the first responders going into the World Trade Center. I knew what those guys were about to go through. I didn’t know then that we’d lose 343 family members that day.”
Men, women and children from more than 90 countries died on Sept. 11, 2001, said Pastor Don Coles as he led the group in prayer and reflection.
“We pause to pray that those left scarred by those terrible events will heal from those wounds,” Coles said.
Bagpiper Danny Shepard played “Amazing Grace” as those present circled the flagpole, where the flag was raised to half mast. Hands over their hearts, they recited the “Pledge of Allegiance.”
In closing, local Woodmen of the World President Kathy Strickland shared a request with the crowd. She asked them to thank those in any uniform for continued service to country.
“They put their lives on the line for us. We can do no less than thank them for it,” she said.
At College of Coastal Georgia in Brunswick, VALOR, a student-based organization supporting veterans and active military, hosted its annual observation ceremony, taking two minutes of silence to remember the 2,977 innocent lives lost in the attacks.
“Most traditional freshmen were only 4-years-old when 9/11 occurred,” said Cheryl Van Dyke, a counselor with the college and the VALOR organization.
In St. Marys, Capt. Steven Hill, chief of staff for Submarine Group 10, said he never planned to make the Navy a career. The terrorist attacks on American soil compelled him to change his mind.
He shared that story with hundreds of sailors and public safety officials from Camden County who had gathered at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay to commemorate the anniversary of the attacks.
“Fourteen years ago, the United States was attacked by an ideology,” he said.
Hill described how he saw footage of the first jet crashing into the twin towers in New York, thinking it was a tragic accident. When the second one struck, he ran to tell his commanding officer what had happened and said the nation was under attack.
The attacks were unsettling, but Hill said “we were ready to act.”
“I’m still serving as a result,” he said. “I stayed because I couldn’t stand the injustice of that day.”
The main role of six of Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines at Kings Bay is to prevent a nuclear attack. Two other Ohio-class subs at Kings Bay, USS Georgia and USS Florida, were converted to guided missile submarines that are designed to play an active role in the fight against terrorist attacks. The nation is more prepared to thwart terrorist attacks, but that doesn’t mean another one could not happen.
“The nation continues to face a threat,” Hill said. “Terrorism and the fact people who employ it still exist. They believe innocent people should die.”
Hill said the threat of “lone wolf” attacks should not be ignored.
He also acknowledged the role of public safety officials who attended the ceremony, saying they “deserve the spotlight and warrant the attention.”
After Hill’s speech, the sailors faced the line of Camden County first responders and saluted them as a bugler played “Taps.”