On Sept. 11, Aracelis A. Hernandez was in Atlanta getting ready to board a plane to Mexico.
"When I saw what happened, I realized how lucky I am," she said.
On Sunday, she got a chance to say "thanks" to local emergency personnel.
"They put their lives in harm's way every day," she said.
More than 60 people - mostly firefighters and police officers - gathered at Monterrey's Mexican Restaurant in Martinez for Let's Honor America's Heroes, a community celebration of local emergency workers.
"It makes me feel good to know that people are still thinking about things like this," Martinez Fire Department Chief Doug Cooper said.
Columbia County Commissioner Jim Whitehead said recent world events remind people who the real heroes are.
"Some wear uniforms; some don't," he said. "I say 'Pick your heroes.' September 11 has proven there are a lot of heroes out there."
Part of the ceremony focused on artist Peter O'Neil of St. Augustine, Fla, who has donated more than 4,000 copies of his painting The Two Minutes of Silence to fire and police stations throughout the nation. On Sunday, he gave a print to the Columbia County Sheriff's Office and asked the crowd to join him in two minutes of silence in honor to those who died in the Sept. 11 attacks.
"We don't ever want to forget," he said.
One of his prints also hangs in the home of Joanne Kennelly - whose brother Paul Tegtmeier, a New York firefighter, died when one of the trade towers collapsed.
"It's a reminder of my greatest hero, my brother," she said. "He was a wonderful person."
State Sen. Joey Brush (R-Appling) - one of the featured speakers - was severely burned as a child and thanked emergency personnel for the difference they've made in his life.
"It's people like the people in this room who are out in the trenches every day, saving people's lives - we can never thank them enough," he said.
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.