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Safety officers will remember 9/11 with Thursday memorial
The Gainesville Fire Department hangs a U.S. flag from the top of a ladder truck during last year’s Sept. 11, 2001, Memorial service at the Gainesville Public Safety Building.

Gainesville police and fire personnel will mark the 13th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks with a public memorial service Thursday morning.

“We don’t want anyone to be forgotten. We want to make sure we pay homage every year for something so tragic,” said Cpl. Joe Britte, Gainesville Police Department spokesman.

The annual event is set to take place at the flagpole on Bank Street in front of the Public Safety Complex off Queen City Parkway.

Each year, Gainesville and Hall County police and fire departments come together to remember the 343 firefighters and 72 police officers who lost their lives among the nearly 3,000 people who died that day.

In addition to the fire and police departments, the general public is invited.

The event begins at 9:55 a.m., with the national anthem sung by police investigator Margaret Ashby.

Four minutes later, at 9:59, there will be three sets of five chimes, indicating the moment the South Tower of the World Trade Center collapsed.

The time between that and the chimes for the North Tower collapsing at 10:28 a.m. will be filled with remarks by several fire and police department representatives and a bagpipe performance of “Amazing Grace” by Chris Boykin.

The service will close around 10:30 a.m. with the official Firefighter’s Prayer by a Gainesville fire department chaplain.

The city’s fire department division chief, Keith Smith, said he vividly remembers the moment as he worked the Fire Safety House for Centennial Elementary School.

“We all assumed it was an accident for a little bit,” he said. “It quickly turned into being able to tell that it was on purpose.”

As firefighters, he said he and the rest of the staff are forced to contemplate the implications an event like that.

“It reminds us of what can happen, but we would still do it if it meant saving someone else,” he said. “It’s a somber time for us. We listen, and it’s a time to reflect and then we go on about our jobs.”