After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Jacksonville resident Pearl Williams could do nothing but wait to hear from her son.
“I just went home and sat by the phone and waited for a call,” Williams said. “It never came.”
Army Maj. Dwayne Williams, who had been at his new post at the Pentagon for just eight weeks, was one of 2,977 people to die in the attacks of that day.
Williams immediately went to work making sure her son’s legacy would not be forgotten.
In honor of Maj. Williams and others who lost their lives, an annual Healing and Remembrance Ceremony is planned in Jacksonville at 9 a.m. Wednesday on the 18th anniversary of the attacks. The ceremony, which is set for the Jacksonville 9/11 Memorial in the city’s cemetery, will feature songs from the choir at First Baptist Church of Jacksonville and a keynote address from Col. Marvin L. Walker, commander of Anniston Army Depot.
Also planned for Wednesday is a ceremony at 11 a.m. in Anniston’s Centennial Memorial Park. In addition to remembering the attacks, Alabama’s fallen firefighters will be honored and Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey will attend.
Ken Rollins, a local veteran who helped organize the Anniston event, said it becomes more important to remind everyone what happened on the day of the attacks with each passing year.
“It’s been 18 years, and there are those who were young and not born yet,” Rollins said. “They just have no idea what we went through. I worry about complacency setting in as time passes, unless you were alive to feel it. It’s up to us to remind everyone.”
Rollins said the park, which is home to monuments recognizing the sacrifice of Alabamians killed in military action, is a perfect place to remember the day.
“There’s 10,000 names on the wall of those that died overseas so they wouldn’t have to fight at home,” Rollins said. “That all changed that day.”
According to Williams, Rollins was also instrumental in helping get the memorial to Maj. Williams established in Jacksonville.
“It hits home when you’ve got a local kid affected,” Rollins said.
“It was awful. I don’t wish that on anyone,” Williams said. “I thought about ways I could honor him, because I didn’t want him to be forgotten. I needed to keep his memory alive.”
In addition to the memorial and annual ceremony, Williams established a citizenship award at Kitty Stone Elementary and a scholarship at Jacksonville State University.
Jaden Anderson, this year’s recipient of the citizenship award, will be on hand on Wednesday.
After the kindness that was shown to her, Williams said, she is glad to help give back.
“Everyone was just so compassionate and supportive,” Williams said. “I will never forget that.”