Fire gear is carried to honor fallen firefighters, just one aspect of the the annual 9/11 memorial ceremony in Calhoun County. Observances were held both at Centennial Park in Anniston and at First Baptist Church in Jacksonville.

Calhoun County residents recognized the 17th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks Tuesday at remembrances in Jacksonville and Anniston.

An event at First Baptist Church of Jacksonville honored those killed in the attacks, along with veterans and law enforcement. The ceremony also featured a number of songs performed by the First Baptist Church of Jacksonville choir, a presentation of wreaths and Calhoun County Sheriff Matthew Wade on bagpipes.

Army Lt. Col. Roshun A. Steele, commander of the Anniston Munitions Center at the Anniston Army Depot, gave a keynote address highlighting the importance of remembering the 9/11 attacks for the sake of younger generations.

On Sept. 11, 2001, 19 men hijacked four commercial airline flights on the U.S. East Coast. Two of the planes crashed into the two World Trade Center towers in New York City. A third plane hit the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., and the fourth crashed into a Shanksville, Pa., field after passengers tried to regain control of the plane. The attacks led to the deaths of nearly 3,000 people.

“On this day, always remember the ones who gave the greatest sacrifice,” Steele said. “It not only took the lives of the people who were there, but it affected so much more. It changed the future for everyone.”

Pearl Williams, hospitalized a few days before the Jacksonville event, has hosted a “healing and remembrance ceremony” each year for about a decade in honor of those killed in the 9/11 attacks. The death of her son, U.S. Army Maj. Dwayne Williams, in the attack on the Pentagon was the reason she started the event.

“It’s something that brings me healing,” Williams said by phone on Friday. “It’s for all who lost their lives in 9/11, not just my son.”

In Anniston, people gathered at Centennial Memorial Park among war and law enforcement memorials of Alabamians killed in the line of duty to remember the lives lost in the 2001 attacks. The event also unveiled the new state firefighters memorial.

Ken Rollins, head of the Centennial Memorial Committee, introduced speakers and special attendees, among them Gov. Kay Ivey, Secretary of State John Merrill and state Fire Marshal Scott Pilgreen. Each shared stories of where they were on the day the towers fell and how America has remembered and been strengthened since.

“First I want to thank for all the efforts you’ve given to make this memorial a reality,” Ivey saidof the firefighters memorial. “Seventeen years ago on this day, the strength of our nation was tested, but what emerged was the resiliency of the American patriot. We will remember that day as a day first responders carried our nation on their backs, and that day will always be remembered as a day that America refused to be shaken.”

Wreaths honoring the 9/11 attacks and fallen first responders were laid in the park’s reflecting pool, and the family of Tracy Sanders, killed on duty as Mt. Olive Volunteer Fire Department’s first female chief, uncovered Sanders’ name, the most recent on the new state firefighters memorial.

Ken Rollins thanked a host of people who helped have the memorial at 17th and Quintard designated as an official state memorial through the Alabama Legislature. Anniston Mayor Jack Draper also spoke of the firefighters commemoration.

“We are honored to have this memorial in Anniston,” Draper said.


Staff Writer Danie Waddell: 256-235-3563. On Twitter @DanieeW.