The bell in the Clocktower began to ring precisely at 8:46 a.m. Wednesday, marking the time American Airlines flight 11 struck the north tower of the World Trade Center.
It was also the time a special 9/11 memorial ceremony got under way at the Rome Firefighters Memorial Plaza.
U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Dustin Swarnes, a young enlistee at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, on the day of the terrorist attack, reminded a large audience that the day has changed the way Americans go about routine day-to-day tasks.
“Some of you may remember taking family members to the gate at the airport and not just to the security gate, or attending sporting events without going through metal detectors,” Swarnes said. “Many first responders are losing their lives today, so lets keep them in our thoughts.”
“I was like everyone else that morning, not believing what was unfolding before me that morning on the news,” Swarnes recalled. “I knew my vacation was going to be cut short. Within a few days I was sent on a bus, because all aircraft were still grounded, to a nuclear plant in Kentucky to guard.”
Swarnes said many young men and women have been motivated by the events of that day to become firefighters, police, EMTs and soldiers.
“I respect them greatly because they are volunteering at a time when we know that there are attacks, all kinds of terroristic threats against the United States and fellow Americans, so they are stepping up when there is a time of danger,” Swarnes said.
The Rev. Monty Stallins of the Second Avenue Baptist Church reminded the crowd that hundred of firefighters, police and paramedics ran toward the danger on Sept. 11, 2001.
“They ran into the chaos, they ran into the dust, they ran into the collapse and death and destruction all around them,” Stallins said. “It is not enough to simply remember. We must live out of their memory. We must live in honor of their legacy. We’re surrounded by people who are doing that every day.”
Stallins encouraged the crowd to think about how they would give of themselves for the good of the community “because ultimately that is how we show that we have not forgotten.”
Floyd County Police Lt. Dana Collum rang the last alarm bell in a 4-1-2 pattern in remembrance of the 343 firefighters, 61 law enforcement officers and 8 emergency medical technicians who were killed during the attack in New York.
The total death toll was 2,977, but many first responders and private citizens alike who suffered debilitating injuries that day are still suffering 18 years later.
“We will never forget,” said Rome Floyd County Fire Department Sgt. Jamie Lambert.
Military and emergency response agency representatives who lined the Firefighters Memorial Plaza included U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Keith Thrash, David Harris from the U.S. Marine Corps, Jeff Rogers from the U.S. Navy, Rome-Floyd County Fire Department Division Chief Dean Oswalt, Floyd County Police Capt. David Bohannon, Rome Police Maj. Rodney Bailey, Floyd County Sheriff’s Office Maj. Dave Roberson, 911 Center Assistant Director Sommer Davis Robinson, Floyd Medical Center Paramedic Daniel Helton, Georgia State Patrol Capt. Doug Shamblin, Floyd County Emergency Management Agency Director Tim Herrington and Redmond Regional Medical Center Paramedic Dan Proctor.