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Memories of Sept. 11 still fresh for some

From staff reports

For many the memory of the deadly attack on Sept. 11 four years ago is as fresh as if it happened yesterday and for some the memory is fading a little.

Some say it is the defining moment like Pearl Harbor's Dec. 7 attack in 1941 for their parents and grandparents, a time where you remember what you were doing and what you were thinking and how you were feeling.

And for the nation's busiest passenger airport, Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, it has been four years of increasing security, looking at the way things are done and trying to stop any other attacks.

Hundreds of pounds of confiscated items have been confiscated from passengers, but no major incidents have occurred.

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is generally more secure today than it was before the Sept. 11 attack, said Richard Duncan, the airport's aviation security director.

However, from the airports' perspectives they were secure on the day of the attacks, too.

"But the terrorists used things that were legal at the time to gain control of those aircraft," Duncan said.

Still, the rules have been tightened and the security checkpoints manned with Transportation Security Administration screeners who are better educated than the private screeners who worked the checkpoints previously. Removal of items from bags and checking computers and electronic devices also adds to the level of security, Duncan said.

"We're doing more than we've done previously in order to be prepared for today's environment," Duncan said.

Proposed changes in the list of prohibited items don't seem to give Duncan much concern.

"That list of prohibited items should always be reevaluated according to the threat," Duncan said.

He cited changes in security measures on board airplanes, such as reinforced cockpit doors, as examples of why the list can be changed.

"I remember," said Raben Symone Teague, a seventh-grader at Jonesboro Middle School. "I was at school. I know it feels to lose people really close to you. It's hard because you're going through a lot of grief.

"When I have free time I wonder about it," she said. She was seven at the time.

"I was in class and the intercom came on and said there had been an accident in New York," said Katherine Hall, a seventh grader at Jonesboro Middle School. "The teachers turned on the T.V.'s and we watched it.

"It scared me," she said as her eyes widened. "I didn't know if it would happen in Georgia. I don't want it to. I think about it a lot."

She was 8 at the time.

While helping evacuees from those states most devastated by Hurricane Katrina's fury, volunteers and local public safety employees at McDonough Presbyterian Church have not forgotten the national disaster that had this country scrambling four years ago.

Henry County Fire Assistant Chief Bill Lacy, who returned from Mississippi Thursday night to help with relief efforts, said he's noticed that the fire service, in general, is a lot more conscious of keeping its personnel safe since the Sept. 11 attacks.

"We do a dangerous job but we don't want to ever minimize the value of our personnel," said Lacy as he glanced down at left arm, which showcased a black wristband that read "EVERYBODY GOES HOME." The Maltese Cross, the symbol of protection for the fire departments, also adorned the wristband. "Nationwide, we have 100 -110 firefighters (die in the line of duty)-And that's just unacceptable."

Stockbridge resident Dorothy Cassell, who handed out food to volunteers, said the attacks have made her more conscious of her surroundings.

"I don't trust things sitting around or (that look to be) out of the ordinary," Cassell said. She said the attacks along with Katrina's devastation "shows us as a country that we need to be yea all so ready for we know not when disaster will come or when Jesus will come in the clouds of glory."

Stockbridge resident Cassandra Shields, also a volunteer, said the 9-11 catastrophe has caused her lifestyle to alter. She said she worked full-time as a hairstylist at an upscale salon.

"The day before that happened, I was making $2,800 a week, every week and that was almost guaranteed ...(Afterward,) people stopped coming because a lot of people's jobs downsized them," Shields said. "People went from a two-income household to one. Whenever there's a choice in paying the bills and getting a hair service, they will choose to pay the bills."

Shields said she found herself without a job and decide to go back to school. In May, she graduated with a bachelor's degree in urban studies from Beulah Heights Bible College in Atlanta.

Since the attacks, Pastor Ken King with The Brotherhood of Jesus Christ church in Stockbridge he's found that members of his congregation are praying for people more.

"We found that the United States was not invincible. We found out that when you take God out of the country, you have a godless country," King said, referring to topics such as abortion, the Ten Commandments and prayer being allowed in public schools.

Hampton resident Melvin Bass, 10, said may not be abreast on many of the moral and ethical questions that surfaced since the terrorist attacks, but he does remember watching the news about the violence on television with his parents.

"It made me very sad to know that that many people died," said Melvin, who is a fifth grader at Pate's Creek Elementary School.

Melvin and McDonough resident Michael Cook, 9, passed out bottled water to Hurricane Katrina evacuees while volunteering Friday at McDonough Presbyterian Church. Like Cassell, Melvin and Michael said they have become more aware of their surroundings. Both boys said they watch the news more to see if any children are kidnapped.

Staff members Ed Brock, Johnny Jackson and Aisha I. Jefferson contributed to this story.