The crowd of first responders, county leaders and residents stood silent Tuesday morning – the only movement from the gentle waving of the American flag high above the Evans Towne Center Park – as Columbia County honored the victims and emergency personnel of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
The metallic clang of the Martinez-Columbia Fire Rescue bell resounded throughout the park.
“Dispatch to FDNY,” the fire department dispatcher repeated over the radio. “Dispatch to FDNY. ... Dispatch to FDNY. ... May we never forget you and always honor and cherish your memory.”
The annual Sept. 11, 2001, remembrance ceremony included guest speaker retired Army Col. Jack Hook, who was in the Pentagon when American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into it.
“All of us remember where we were and what we were doing when we began to hear the disturbing reports from New York City, Washington, D.C., and then, Shanksville, Pa.,” said Hook, now an Augusta Christian Schools teacher and coach.
Hook said he vividly remembers the beautiful, clear morning as he walked across the parking lot.
“It was so striking that I actually stopped and prayed on my way into the building and thanked God for such a magnificent day,” Hook said.
Less than an hour later, as he sat in a conference room, a loud explosion shook the building and he and others were rushed out to safety.
“In this ceremony today, we remember and reflect to honor the innocent victims who lost their lives and the heroes who gave selflessly of themselves that day 11 years ago and pay tribute to those who continue to do so today – our servicemen, our police, firefighters and emergency responders,” Hook said Tuesday.
“Those to whom we pay tribute today are true selfless servants, placing themselves in harm’s way each and every day to provide for our safety, security and freedom.”
The service honored the victims and first responders who died in the attacks, along with “everyday heroes.”
The Rev. Cynthia Taylor, of The Church of the Holy Comforter, served at St. Paul’s Church at Ground Zero months after the attacks.
“To all who serve our country, to all first responders, thank you for the impossible job that you do every day,” she said.