“Never Forget. Never Forgotten. God Bless the USA.”
With that solemn vow, the Rome-Floyd County Fire Department is inviting everyone to attend a Wednesday morning ceremony marking the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
It’s the first time the agency has sponsored the event, which will be held in the new Firefighters Memorial Plaza at the corner of West First Street and West Sixth Street behind City Hall.
“It changed a lot of things. It changed our country forever,” said retired fire captain David Kay, who’s organizing the service with retired battalion chief Phil Langston.
The ceremony will start promptly at 8:25 a.m. Participants are asked to assemble between 8 a.m. and 8:15 a.m.
Kay said the schedule is timed to replicate the events of the day when the nation watched, stunned, as two hijacked commercial airliners destroyed the World Trade Center in New York City. Another rammed a gaping hole in the Pentagon and a fourth was diverted from Washington, D.C., by passengers who forced a crash into a field in Pennsylvania.
The Rome News-Tribune put out a special extra edition and kept its website updated throughout the day. “Terror hits home” blasted the headline on page 1A. It records the horror, the fear and the bravery of local residents and leaders.
“It’s devastating. I hope we never see this again in our lives,” was the reported quote from Allison Morris, who — like so many others — said she had a hard time concentrating on anything but the minute-by-minute coverage of the unfolding events.
Retired Floyd County police chief Bill Shiflett was assistant chief at the time. He hastened to assure the public that local law enforcement was connected and on guard.
“We’re on heightened alert assisting with government buildings,” echoed Travis Goss, who was a major with the Rome Police Department then.
Within a few hours, a blood drive was set up at the Rome Civic Center and people flocked to contribute.
“There’s not much we can do in this kind of tragedy but it’s important to do what we can,” said 29-year-old donor Chip Hall.
Erika Walker was 21. “People my age haven’t witnessed anything like this and we want to do whatever it takes to help others in their time of need,” she said.
Nearly 3,000 people died in the attacks and more than 6,000 were injured. Survivors, and their rescuers, are still dealing with the physical and emotional fallout today.
A year later, at the first remembrance ceremony, the monument in the center of the law enforcement plaza on West Fifth Avenue was unveiled.
“Before 9/11 people had very little respect for the men and women in uniform, but afterwards they became overnight heroes,” noted Amanda Howard, whose father died in the line of duty in 1994.
Wednesday’s ceremony will pay special tribute to the first responders, who then — and now — are willing to face danger to protect others. Kay said it would start with a song by soloist Amanda Lindsey Scholl and recognition of a representative from each agency.
“We’ll have the U.S. Army, the fire department, the police departments ... From the emergency management agency to paramedics, we’ll have all the public service workers that show up when you need them,” Kay said.
At 8:46 a.m., the time the first plane hit the Twin Towers, church bells across the county will start tolling for three minutes of reflection. A reading of the events of the day, a wreath-laying and prayer also are planned for the service.
The Last Alarm ceremony is scheduled for 9:11 a.m. Kay said the big bell would be rung in a 4-2-1 sequence.
“That will symbolize the 421 public service people killed that day. The firefighters, law enforcement and paramedics,” Kay said.