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Sept. 11 a time to ?celebrate what ... could have been'

By Ed Brock

For Tawana Wells of Jonesboro, today is a day for remembering her personal loss along with the loss so many others suffered two years ago.

Wells' daughter died on Sept. 11 one year before terrorists used hijacked airliners to destroy the World Trade Center towers in New York and to attack the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

"I try to celebrate what I think could have been," said Wells.

For Riverdale Firefighter Sterling Poole, formerly a member of the Fire Department of New York, the memory of that day remains fresh, as fresh as the memories he still has of the friends he served with who died that day doing their job. The last time he was in New York was in June to make his final farewell to one of those friends.

"They finally found his helmet so his wife had a funeral," Poole said. "He was my lieutenant for eight years."

This morning Poole, like so many other firefighters across the county and country, will mark the second anniversary of the attacks in which so many of their comrades died with three sets of five chimes from a firehouse bell.

"It just shows that we are all one big fire department family," Poole said.

The Clayton County Fire Department held its annual award ceremony Wednesday night, the first of which was held on the day of the terrorist attack. The department considers the date a yearly reminder of what firefighters and emergency medical technicians do.

Shortly after the attacks two years ago a wave of patriotism and civic duty swept the nation. Part of that wave was an increase in blood donations to the American Red Cross. Very few contributors from that time came back.

"Certainly right after 9/11 we had an enormous amount of blood," said Candice Gulden, spokeswoman for the Red Cross Blood Services for the Southern Region. "What we're hoping for is that, rather than have people come all at once we get people coming throughout the year."

In general the Red Cross does not collect enough blood to take care of the patients in the state, Gulden said. One traffic accident can use up 100 units of blood.

"That's 100 people," Gulden said.

Since blood has a shelf life of only 42 days the Red Cross has to collect blood constantly. And a donor can come back every 56 days.

Religion also soared in the days after the attacks.

"We saw some people get more serious about their faith, but we didn't see a large influx of people coming into the church," said the Rev. Ron Little, pastor of Tara Baptist Church. "The bigger churches did."

But that trend, too, has leveled off, Little said.

Other organizations will mark the day in different ways. The students of Mt. Zion High School will have a moment of silence in memory of the victims of the attacks, Principal Don Stout said. At Clayton College and State University the Student Government Association will hold a memorial consisting of images accompanied by music in the Faculty Dining Room from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

"We want to allow all students, faculty and staff the opportunity to reflect on this tragic day in history," SGA President Rachel Van Ness said. "We hope everyone will take a few minutes out of their day to honor and remember."