Sept. 11 ceremonies honor fallen heroes

LILBURN - For years, a flag bearing the names of 343 firefighters who died in New York while trying to save people on Sept. 11, 2001, hung on the wall at Gwinnett Fire Station 22.

But the firefighters of the county's second battalion wanted to do more to honor their fallen comrades.

On Friday, the eighth anniversary of the terrorist attacks, firefighters from three stations saluted as the flag was raised to half-staff as driver-engineer Jeff Kendrick played bagpipes.

"I think it's important for firemen across the country to remember this day," said Lt. Ken Murphy, who organized the short ceremony and moment of silence. "Not one of them backed away from their duty."

Murphy said he remembers running a call on that fateful day and seeing the patients at a doctor's office turn their attention to the television.

"They were brothers in the line of duty. This is a small little thing we can do," he said.

Battalion Chief Ray Trott said Sept. 11 has a profound impact on the fire department.

"It reminded people how important the fire department is," he said, remembering how people would drive by and wave in the aftermath of the attacks. "It really makes you feel like part of the community."

In just a week, the 34-year veteran will retire, but his son is also a firefighter with the county department.

"It needs to continue," he said of the public memorials and support.

At about the same time as the flag-raising at Station 22, members of the Red Knights motorcycle club, which is comprised of retired and active firefighters, took off on an annual memorial ride from Lawrenceville to the Georgia Public Safety Training Center in Forsyth.

Before an opening

ceremony at the Gwinnett Fallen Heroes Memorial, Jair Reyes paused from his business at the courthouse to look at a giant American flag draped from a fire engine ladder.

"It's too many people dead for somebody's attitudes or problems," he said of the attacks. On the memorial, he added, "it's nothing compared to the people. At least, we've got to remember every year."

Brent Hoovestol, a retired firefighter who organized the ride, said the annual event isn't just to remember the men and women lost in the attacks but also to honor the people who put on a uniform each day to protect the country, whether as a police officer, firefighter or member of the military.

"It's not Veterans Day," he said. "It's active duty day."

Jacqueline Walker, an 84-year-old Lawrenceville woman, came to the ceremony in a raincoat with her daughter, Ann Duncan.

"We didn't want to forget those who lost their lives," Duncan said. "We need to be mindful of the freedoms we have in this country."