Introduced by Gwinnett County firefighter engineer and assistant public information officer Donald Strother, Lawrenceville Mayor Judy Jordan Johnson perhaps best put into perspective how solemn the morning of Sept. 11, 2019, was, as county officials gathered to remember the same day 18 years ago.
“Today we remember those who left home and told their families, ‘Be safe, I love you,’ and never came back,” she said. “We remember where we were on Sept. 11, 2001.”
A lineup of local elected officials and leaders of law enforcement agencies spoke during an annual Sept. 11 ceremony at the Gwinnett County Justice and Administration Center’s Fallen Heroes Memorial on Wednesday. All of them remembered where they were on that day.
Chief Deputy Lou Solis said he had recently moved to Gwinnett County and was a retired U.S. Army Ranger. During his 20 years in the military, he would bring reports to then-General Officer Timothy J. Maude, a tough but fair general who brought a grin to Solis’ face as he remembered working for him in the U.S. Army.
“We would brief him on the special operations side, classified briefs,” Solis said. “He was fair. … He was one of those guys that wanted to know, ‘Why would Rangers be treated differently than anyone in the Army?’”
Maude was promoted to lieutenant general and was working in the Pentagon the day American Flight 77 was commandeered by hijackers and crashed into the building, killing 190 people. Maude was one of them.
“I would see him every month,” Solis said during his ceremonial remarks. “He was one tough guy, but he was a great guy.”
Another question that ran through his head as the aftermath of the attack unfolded was what could happen to him next? Solis said, even as a retired special operations soldier, he was subject to be recalled. It was even more likely since he was recently retired.
“My thing is, ‘Where are we? What are we doing? What’s going on? Do I have to be somewhere?’” Solis said.
Officials who made remarks during the ceremony included Gwinnett County Commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash, Georgia State Senator Renee Unterman, Gwinnett County Police Chief Butch Ayers and Lawrenceville Police Chief Tim Wallace.
Gwinnett County Fire Department Chief Russell Knick asked for those in attendance to remember the innocent lives lost and the sacrifices of the first responders, and also to take time to recognize the first responders making sacrifices today, nearly two decades after the attack.
The monument was a particularly poignant sight to rest a new wreath in honor of the nearly 3,000 that died because it is also the site of a list of American veterans, police officers and firefighters who were killed in action or in the line of duty. Knick’s grandfather, James Ivan Knick, was a Suwanee police chief killed in the line of duty in 1965. In addition to his unique connection to the monument, Knick reflects on the firefighters he and some of his retired former colleagues worked alongside when he spends time at the monument.
Since the Sept. 11 attacks, Knick said local law enforcement agencies and emergency services have emphasized cohesiveness in their day-to-day operations.
“Even when we’re having school shooting type training — it’s not the same as 9/11 — but it’s brought us together where we know we have to work together and rely on each other so when you have a big incident happen, it’s not the first time you’re seeing these people,” Knick said.