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Safety officers honor fallen heroes
Many who attended memorial felt lives were changed in some way
Gainesville Police Chief Brian Kelly, left, and Gainesville Fire Chief Jon Canada unveil a piece of a girder from the World Trade Center during a 9/11 memorial Saturday at the Gainesville Public Safety Complex. The girder will be on permanent display in the lobby of the fire department. - photo by Tom Reed

Nearly 3,000 died in the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, and on Sept. 13, 2001, a Gainesville family learned one of those killed was their own.

Gainesville native Edna Stephens, 53, lived in Washington, D.C., and worked at the Pentagon as a civilian budget analyst for the Army when American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the building.

According to an interview on the fifth anniversary of the attacks, Stephens was planning to end her career and move back home in 2002 to start a catering business.

She grew up in Hall County but left the area soon after graduating from then-E.E. Butler High School to pursue a career with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. She rose through the ranks and years later joined the Defense Department in the Resource Management division.

When the attack happened, much of her family drove to Virginia to get the latest news. Two days later her death was confirmed.

Since 9/11, four military service members from Northeast Georgia have given their lives in service in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Sgt. Jason R. Harkins
Harkins, 25, of Clarkesville served with the Army in Operation Iraqi Freedom and died May 6, 2007, when a makeshift bomb exploded near his vehicle during combat in Baqubah.

Maj. Kevin M. Jenrette
Jenrette, 37, of Lula served with the Army in Operation Enduring Freedom and died June 4, 2009, from attacks by a makeshift bomb and small arms fire.

Pfc. Johnathon M. Millican
Millican, 20, of Trafford, Ala., and a native of Lula served with the Army in Operation Iraqi Freedom and died Jan. 20, 2007, when his patrol was ambushed while conducting operations in Karbala.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Emory J. Turpin
Turpin, 23, of Dahlonega served with the Navy in Operation Enduring Freedom and died Nov. 20, 2005, when he drowned in the Seychelles.

Full coverage of 9/11

Saturday's weather in Gainesville was eerily similar to that of New York on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001 — a day that began with bright blue skies and comfortable temperatures, but turned to darkness and desolation in a matter of hours.

"All the brothers and sisters that lost their life, I'm just here to show support for them," Hall County Sheriff's Sgt. Terry Baines said trying to hold back tears.

He was one of many who came to show their support at Saturday morning's memorial service held at the Gainesville Fire Station on Pine Street.

"I lost a lot of people to 9/11," said Michael Trammell of Gainesville. "I feel like I should come and give my appreciation."

Of the nearly 3,000 people killed in the attacks, Trammell said some of those included his friends who were unable to make it out of the World Trade Center towers.

While not every person at Saturday's memorial had a close relationship with some of those killed, many felt their lives were changed in some way.

"I want to especially remember those first responders ... who ran toward the dangers, while others ran away," said Jon Canada, Gainesville fire chief. "They were both young and old. They were both veterans and rookies, but they stood together and gave the ultimate sacrifice in order to help others to safety."

More than 400 firefighters and police officers were killed in the attacks on the World Trade Center.

"Today is an emotional day for all of us thinking of 9/11," said Mike Jones, chief of the Suwanee Police Department who attended the memorial. "Today is a time for us to think back to that day 10 years ago when we were attacked and how many of our people died for our freedom and what we stand for."

Speakers at the memorial included Canada, Gainesville Mayor Pro Tem Danny Dunagan, Gainesville Police Chief Brian Kelly, Hall County Sheriff Steve Cronic and Gainesville City Manager Kip Padgett.

The overall reaction of those at the memorial was that "We never forget and we're never going to forget," as Jones phrased it.

"Those public safety employees of New York, military personnel at the Pentagon and the everyday Americans that were killed will always be remembered," Padgett said.

In the memory of those killed, honor guards from the Gainesville police and fire department and Sheriff's Office performed an 18-gun salute, a playing of "Taps" and a performance of "Amazing Grace" by a bagpiper.

The Hall County Fire Department honor guard took part in a statewide memorial service at the Georgia Public Safety Training Center in Forsyth.

Saturday's memorial in Gainesville featured the unveiling of a piece of steel from the World Trade Center sent by the New York Port Authority. The steel will be displayed in the lobby of Gainesville Fire Station No. 1 on Pine Street.

"It will be there for anyone who wants to look, touch it and remember all of those who lost their lives on that day," Canada said.

Nearly every person old enough to remember knows exactly where they were when they first learned of the attacks.

"You paused, even stopped what you were doing, and watched and listened as the tragic events of that day unfolded," Kelly said addressing the crowd.

Although that day wounded an entire nation and left the U.S. with ongoing security questions, Kelly and other speakers believe much has been addressed in the decade since, and America continues to prevail.

"We all lost a piece of ourselves that day and many lost family members, friends and co-workers," Kelly said. "An attack that was supposed to cripple and divide our nation only brought us closer together and we stand here today with a stronger bond and a resilience that can never be broken."

Kelly said America must continue that resilience in order to ensure progress in the fight against terrorism.

"We must continue to move forward, to grow, to heal and to strengthen our personal lives and our country so that we may remain ever vigilant and be prepared should an event of such magnitude ever attempt to cross our threshold again," Kelly said.

"We must never forget that there are those who would destroy all that we have built here in this country for hate's sake, and we must remain vigilant, prepared and resolute," Cronic said.


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