JONESBORO — Clayton County police and fire officers from multiple jurisdictions remembered the sacrifices their fallen brothers and sisters who ran toward danger at New York's Twin Towers, aboard a passenger plane above Shanksville, Pa., and at the Pentagon in Washington on Sept. 11, 2001.
Chief Kevin Roberts, then a CCPD officer on the evening watch with his sergeant, was given a chilling duty: "We got tasked with driving around the airport, the whole day, to ensure that if there were some type of calamity, that there was appropriate police response."
Lake City Police Chief Anthony Whitmire was with Atlanta Police Department's SWAT Team and Bomb Squad, taking a mandatory class before heading out for vacation. His partner paged him—"this was prior to the proliferation of cell phones"—but Whitmire thought he'd wait until the break to call back.
"I didn’t know at the time, but he had paged me after the first plane hit," Whitmire said. "After the second plane hit, he paged me numerous times and continuously. Figuring it was pretty important, I stepped out of the class to go find a phone to call him."
Suddenly, the major in charge of the Special Operations Section where Whitmire was assigned "grabbed my arm and said 'Come on, we’ve got work to do,' and drug me to an emergency operations meeting."
Instead of going on vacation, Whitmire said, "We spent the next week on 12-hour shifts patrolling a mostly empty city and airport and running lots of suspicious package calls. Every briefcase, box, bag, et cetera, became a potential bomb in the eyes of the shaken community."
While CCPD and CCFES took the 1,362 steps up, Roberts noted the effort puts "enormous stress" on the participants. "We put some stations out there to ensure that they stay hydrated, we opened the doors, but they're adamant about doing it in their gear because those victims of 9/11, those servicemen were in their gear when they passed on and transitioned, so we want to honor them in that manner," Roberts said. "But we've taken all the precautions to try and keep them safe and we've got an ambulance out there on standby just in case, but those guys are physical specimens. I have no doubt that they'll be fine."
On Sept. 7, the Morrow Fire Department raised $2,090, the most money of any stair climbing team taking part in the 2019 Georgia 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb, at Sovereign Condominium Association in Atlanta. Chief Roger Swint led his team, which included friends and family from the Auburn and DeKalb County Fire Departments, in full battle gear. The money goes to the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, which supports local families of fallen firefighters, and to the Fire Department of New York Counseling Services Unit.
Forest Park Fire and Emergency Services literally marked the occasion with a stone memorial engraved "09.11.01 A Day Not To Be Forgotten" and a flower box surrounding the flagpole.
"All on-duty personnel from B-Shift gathered around the flag pole at Station 1, where a new 9/11 monument has recently been completed," said Maj. Joel Turner. "Chief Eddie Buckholts recounted the timeline of events that morning, then personnel shared in a moment of silence together. Sgt. Conway Ferguson closed out the time together with prayer."
In Lake City, Chief Whitmire said, "I think many here are silently reflecting on that day, as I do every year." Similarly, the Forest Park Police Department "observed with a moment of silence this morning," said department spokesperson Sgt. Kelli Flanigan.
"We can't do enough to keep their memory alive, both from a domestic point of view, and from abroad as far as our military servicemen, the people who lost their lives on those plane crashes," Roberts added. "We can't do enough, and we'll do whatever we can to keep their memory alive."