SMYRNA — Public safety officers in south Cobb typically host a memorial ceremony each year to remember the lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001. This year, as the pandemic restricts events and crowd sizes, Smyrna’s fire and police departments organized a new way to recognize the day.
About 30 Smyrna first responders from the fire and police departments, many wearing their turnout gear like jackets, helmets and tactical vests, ran from the city’s fire and police department buildings on Atlanta Street to City Hall, about half a mile away on King Street. They placed a commemorative wreath in front of City Hall before falling back into formation and returning to their headquarters on foot.
Interim Smyrna Police Chief Robert Harvey said the departments knew they would not be able to host a typical ceremony due to COVID-19, so Deputy Fire Chief Brian Marcos collaborated with the police department to organize the run. On Friday morning, Marcos carried the American flag as he paced the group.
“He stood up front and walked by example,” Harvey said of Marcos. “Or, in this case, ran by example.”
Harvey said he was working on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, and he looks to New York’s first responders from that morning as examples of courage.
“I think about the folks that went into the building — the ones that had to survive, or died from the plane crash. There was just so much courage and valor at that moment in time,” Harvey said. “If we can do just a little bit, and walk a little bit by the example that these fire and policemen did at that moment in time, I think we’re hopefully doing our job, we’re exceeding your expectations and (those of) our community.”
Smyrna resident Scott Carlisle led a group of students from Smyrna’s Buckhead Preparatory Preschool to witness Friday morning’s memorial event. The army veteran said the school teaches students about public safety officers every year.
“It’s just something we teach the kids at a young age, not only about the military, but also law enforcement and first responders,” Carlisle said, “just so they can kind of get an idea at a young age as to what the significance of Sept. 11 was.”
The group of 50 students lined the sidewalk opposite city hall as firefighters and police officers walked by. A pair of firefighters stopped to offer high-fives to the 50 preschool students.
Public Safety Leaders Reflect
Smyrna Fire Lt. Kyle O’Bryan, who has spent 31 years working in public safety, hopes the memorial run can become a Smyrna tradition. He said the first responder run and other events of remembrance Friday could serve as unifying moments for the nation.
“With the state of the country, hopefully this can kind of bring everybody back together,” O’Bryan said. “You know, 343 firemen were lost in the World Trade Center, so it’s a big deal. It means a lot to the public safety community.”
Harvey also said Friday could serve as a day of reflection in a tumultuous year.
“I hope, this day, we can use this moment in time in this year, 2020, to stop and pause for a minute, just to take a timeout, forget everything else that’s going on in the world and remember we’re still a great country,” Harvey said. “We’ll get back to the business at hand. We’ll start dealing with the things we need to deal with. But, at least at this moment in time, it would be great to have a little peace to fellowship a while and to remember what happened.”