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'The way to remember'
Public safety officials, citizens honor victims

LAWRENCEVILLE - When Howard Williams wished a young woman a happy Patriot Day on Tuesday, the woman didn't know what he was talking about.

That's one reason why Williams and 19 other men gathered for a motorcycle ride to honor the more than 2,000 men and women who died on Sept. 11, 2001, when terrorists hijacked planes and crashed them into the World Trade Center twin towers and the Pentagon.

"It's up to us to keep it in the public's eye, in the forefront," said Williams, a retired military policeman who was riding with the Red and Blue Knights, motorcycle clubs for firefighters and police officers. "More people remember the Alamo than remember 9/11. We've got to keep those remembrances here."

After a short ceremony at the Gwinnett Fallen Heroes Memorial, the men, some dressed in motorcycle gear emblazoned with the Maltese cross and one in his fire service helmet, traveled the 120 miles to Forsyth.

All wore black ribbons to honor the victims of the terrorist attacks.

"For us, it's to remember the 343 firemen, the police, the military and the patriots," said Brent Hoovstol, a retired firefighter.

"People at first wonder what you are doing, but they catch on pretty quick," he said of the memorial ride, now in its fifth year.

In the past, as many as 100 riders have participated in the event, but Tuesday a sparse crowd gathered to wave the Knights off.

Lt. Thomas Rutledge of the Gwinnett Fire Department said the agency signaled for a moment of silence through the fire dispatch channel, and flags flew at half-staff at stations, so the firefighters on duty could participate in a tribute.

"I think about it everyday," said Lawrenceville Police Capt. Greg Vaughn, who came to Tuesday's ceremony. "I remember the victims and the families and I think, 'Can it ever happen again? ... You have to participate because this is the way to remember everybody."