As Rome remembered the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001, Rome-Floyd County Fire Chief Troy Brock issued a plea for a return to the unity Americans experienced in the days following the horrific attacks.
“As a nation we united more than I’ve ever seen in my lifetime,” Brock told a small crowd at the Firefighters Memorial Plaza on Friday morning.
“Differences of opinion, political affiliation and race did not matter. We united as Americans,” he continued. “And yet I stand before you today, 19 years later, and we are more divided than I’ve ever seen in my lifetime. Have we forgotten?”
Brock asked the crowd, and those watching via social media, to seek the same kind of unity felt in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., and the failed strike that ended in a plane crash in western Pennsylvania.
“That is the greatest honor of respect that we can give those who paid the ultimate sacrifice on that day,” Brock said.
The events of 9/11 will always be etched in her mind, Rome Police Chief Denise Downer-McKinney said. She was in a hospital with her mother as the attacks occurred and watched the events unfold on television.
The following day, her mother passed away.
Downer-McKinney called it a “double piercing in my spirit, to watch my mom slip away as well as my brothers and sisters in public safety.
Those who ran into the World Trade Center knew they would probably never come out.
“Sacrifice and heroism is not defined totally by action, it is a character trait,” she said.
She also recalled how quickly the community came together to hold a celebration for public safety personnel less than two weeks later in Ridge Ferry Park.
Floyd County Police Chief Mark Wallace referred to the attacks on 9/11 as the murder of nearly 3,000 men, women and children.
“It was a cowardly attack on the symbols of United States prosperity and security, where innocent American lives were erased as a result,” Wallace said.
The county police chief also referred to the unity of the American spirit to seek justice against those who were responsible for the attacks and to rebuild our strength as a country.
“I ask that you join me in your nightly prayers that our children and grandchildren will never have to endure another date that will live in infamy,” Wallace said.
Lovejoy Baptist Church Pastor Carey Ingram was attending a pastor’s conference at Morehouse College in Atlanta on the day of the attacks. He remembered watching the television in a lobby and seeing United Airlines Flight 175 crash into the south tower of the World Trade Center.
“That changed my life forever,” Ingram said.
Classes at the conference were canceled and he recalled wanting to get back to his family.
His second thoughts were for those public safety personnel who did their best to save lives in New York and Washington, D.C.
“This began for me a special upgraded respect for front-liners — policemen, firemen, EMTs,” Ingram said. “We should never take them for granted ... Just think every time a fireman goes on call, he or she knows that they are about to put their life on the line to save a building or people that might be in it, and they do it without hesitation.”
Floyd County Sheriff Tim Burkhalter and Rome-Floyd County Fire Department training officer Kevin Ware laid a wreath at the base of the firefighters statue in the plaza.
Rome-Floyd County 911 dispatcher Emily Suits and firefighter Quinton Kay concluded the ceremony with the ringing of a bell to remember the 412 public safety personnel who died on 9/11.