In our lives, there are places and things we remember. I remember one event as if it were yesterday.
It was a little after 9 a.m., and we had just opened the pharmacy for business. My assistant came running in where I was working and asked if we had heard about the building that had been damaged at the Trade Center.
I was confused at first and thought she was talking about the Savannah Trade Center on Hutchinson Island. She went on to explain that she was talking about the World Trade Center in New York City and that a plane had crashed into one of the twin towers. We quickly turned our attention to the radio and listened as the reports came in.
Sept. 11, 2001, or simply 9/11 as it is called, was the defining moment for a generation. Many refer to it as our modern-day Pearl Harbor.
The events of the day are well-documented:
• 8:46 a.m. — The North Tower is struck by American Airlines Flight 11, carrying 81 passengers and 11 crew members.
• 8:52 a.m. — 1st Battalion Chief Joe Pfeifer and two ladder and engine companies of the Fire Department of New York City arrive on the scene.
• 9:03 a.m. — The South Tower is stuck by United Airlines flight 175, carrying 56 passengers and nine crew members.
• 9:37 a.m. — The Pentagon in Washington, D.C., is struck by American Airlines Flight 77, with 58 passengers and six crew members.
• 9:59 a.m. — The South Tower collapses.
• 10:03 a.m. — United Airlines Flight 93, carrying 37 passengers and seven crew members, crashes in Shanksville, Pa.
• 10:28 a.m. — The North Tower collapses.
On this fateful day, four planes are hijacked and 2,977 people die. America had been attacked.
Included in those who lost their lives are 343 firefighters and 72 police officers.
First Battalion Chief Joe Pfeifer, who was the first chief to arrive on this horrific scene, according to cnn.com, returned to the World Trade Center site Feb. 3, 2002. This time, he carried the flag-draped body of his younger brother, Kevin, another of New York City’s finest, from the North Tower area, according to septembereleven.net.
The picture of a firefighter, in full gear and carrying his equipment, racing up the stairwell of the one of the Twin Towers while frantic citizens flee down the stairwell, remains embedded in all of our memories.
Our nation recently observed Patriot Day. We remembered and honored those who perished during 9/11 and celebrated their lives and their legacies.
Our appreciation and observance of the work firefighters and first responders provide our state and nation is never-ending.
Firefighters and first responders are a unique group in our communities. Theirs are not jobs; theirs are callings.
We are blessed in our nation to have a mixture of paid and volunteer firefighters. Perhaps no other vocation in our nation is comprised of more than 69 percent volunteers, as is the case with the members of the 30,145 fire departments in our country, according to nfpa.org.
In Georgia, it is estimated that there are at least 6,000 volunteer firefighters. Of the 626 compliant fire departments in our state, 234 are all-volunteer departments, according to firefightersonline.com.
Training required to become a career firefighter is offered through the Georgia Fire Academy at the Georgia Public Safety Training Center in Forsyth. The eight-week program consists of 340 hours of rigorous training that includes classroom-based lecture and practical skills building sessions. The program is recognized as being one of the best in the nation.
From 1981-2011, 70 Georgia firefighters were killed in the line of duty. The Georgia Fallen Firefighters Foundation profiles some recent firefighter deaths and their actions of valor on its website at www.gafallenfirefighters.org. We are thankful for our firefighters and first responders in Georgia and our nation and we pray every day for their safety.
Our nation will never forget 9/11. We will continue to observe Patriot Day and honor those who perished that fateful day. In our lives, there are places and things we remember.
Carter can be reached at 421-B State Capitol, Atlanta, GA 30334. His Capitol office number is 404-656-5109. Connect with him online at facebook.com/buddycarterga or on Twitter @Buddy_Carter.