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Annual Freedom Walk draws crowd on post
Participants walk under a huge American flag suspended over the track from the ladder of a firetruck. - photo by Photo by Denise Etheridge
People were reminded Friday during Fort Stewart’s annual Freedom Walk to “thank a firefighter, thank a police officer, thank a soldier,” for helping to protect and serve. Folks were also asked to remember the victims of 9/11, and all the military members who lost their lives fighting the War on Terror in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past nine years.
Fort Stewart firefighter Shane Shifflett served as a firefighter in Maryland nine years ago. Shifflett was among the initial first responders to assist when the Pentagon was attacked on Sept. 11, 2001.
“It was more body recovery than it was rescue,” Shifflett said, his voice slightly strained with emotion. “It’s not like what you see on TV. When you’re there it really hits home. You’re experiencing it firsthand.”
Shifflett, now 39, said he began his fire fighting career as a volunteer at age 13. When he was 18 he went “career.”
“My dad was a firefighter in the U.S. Air Force,” he said. “This (Fort Stewart) is the best base I’ve been to.”
Shifflett said fire fighting is his calling.
Dennis Fitzgerald, Riceboro Assistant Fire Chief, said he will never forget 9/11.
“I had a couple of cousins killed up there (the Twin Towers),” Fitzgerald said. The assistant fire chief’s cousins were New York City firefighters who responded to the attack that morning on a clear, cloudless day.
Fitzgerald said the world will never return to a “calm, complacent place.” He also fears America may face another terroristic attack in the near future.
Liberty County Eastern District Fire Chief Joe Martin was “sitting in the firehouse on 9/11.” Martin agreed that 9/11, like the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, is a day all Americans remember where they were when the unthinkable happened. Martin said he was in Karachi, Pakistan, when Kennedy was shot.
Nearly 3,000 people died and more than 6,000 were injured on Sept. 11, 2001, when 19 al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four planes and used them as weapons on American soil.
The suicide attackers crashed two of the passenger airliners into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City and crashed another plane into the Pentagon outside of Washington, D.C. One hundred and twenty-five people, including 55 service members, died in the attack on the Pentagon. The fourth plane crashed into a field near Shanksville, Penn. The heroic passengers on board that plane, Flight 93, tried to retake the plane from the hijackers. Had the passengers and crew not fought back, that plane likely would have headed toward the nation’s capitol.

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