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September 11th – We Will Never Forget

Sixteen years have come and gone since September 11, 2001.   On this day we remember all those affected and honor our first responders.   9-11 is the defining moment for this generation, our modern day Pearl Harbor.  The image of six soldiers raising the flag at Iwo Jima was emulated by three New York City firefighters raising the flag at Ground Zero.  Each of these pictures represents the resolve of America and our never ending struggle to defend liberty and freedom.

The word surreal still comes to mind when I think of sixteen years ago.  Each of us, in an instant, can remember where we were and what we were doing.  Battalion Chief Joe Pfeifer, two ladder and engine companies knew what to do as they arrived first on scene at the North Tower at 8:52 a.m.  They had to push their way through the crowd of screaming people to begin the rescue operation.

For generations my family has served as firefighters.  Being a first responder is more than a family tradition, it is a calling.   I cannot explain what compels us to rush into danger when all others run away.  However, I know God is with us.  At 9:03 a.m. the South Tower was struck and we realized it was an attack.

Cowards, masked as terrorists attacked civilians thinking we would cower in fear.  They thought we would give in.  They thought we would falter.  They thought we would lose our faith in democracy, liberty and freedom.  They thought they had won…  THEY THOUGHT WRONG!

Once again, the sleeping giant awoke.  Only this time, we arrived in a fire truck and patrol car wearing a fire helmet.  The very best of America showed up sixteen years ago and I challenge each of us to live it every day.

Do you remember how you felt on 9-11-01, and the days after?  Did you thank a police officer or give blood?  Did you have a tear in your eye when you passed a fire station?   Did you talk to complete strangers or give grace and forgiveness to those you previously denied it?  Did you rethink your priorities or just hug your family and say I love you more often?  Did you proudly display the American flag?

Each of us was affected in different ways.  First responders all over the country went on high alert to protect the homeland.  Sixteen years later, we still stand ready and answer the call.

At 9:37 a.m. the Pentagon was struck.  At 9:59 a.m. Tower 2 collapsed, and at 10:28 a.m. Tower 1 collapsed.  At 10:03 a.m., Flight 93 crashed in Shanksville, PA.  Todd Beamer and other passengers prayed the Lord’s Prayer followed by the most simple but powerful words of “Let’s Roll”.  Their selfless act and ultimate sacrifice saved lives on the ground and inspired us all.

When it was all over, 2,977 people had died.  Of the fallen were 343 firefighters and 71 police officers.  Sixteen years later, you can ask any of New York’s Bravest and Finest or first responders from Georgia and they will proudly tell you, we are ready to respond.

We Will Never Forget.  May God bless you, our great state of Georgia and the United States of America.