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Locals remember their personal experiences on Sept. 11, 2001
9/11
Scenes from Sept. 11, 2001. Photos submitted by Jerry Marinich.

Anybody born before 1995 probably remembers where they were and what they were doing the moment they learned the Twin Towers in New York City had collapsed due to a terrorist attack. 

Sept. 11, 2001 will always be remembered as a day that our first responders emerged as heroes, similar to the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Almost 3,000 people died as a result of the attacks, whether the day of or because of health complications afterwards. 9/11 is still known as the most deadly terrorist act in world history. 

Though Dawsonville is 849 miles away from New York City, it’s impossible to say that nobody from Dawsonville was affected by the horrors of 9/11. 

Dawson County Board of Commissioners District 3 Commissioner Tim Satterfield was working as a first responder in Dawson County. His cousin’s wife was a flight attendant on the flight that crashed in Pennsylvania. 

“When somebody’s life was impacted by it, you don’t forget,” Satterfield said. “Being in public safety and seeing how many people in public safety lost their lives...in public safety for 41 years and seeing how it affected the firemen and policemen there…impacted their family.” 

Bonita Davis, who moved to Dawsonville the summer of 2013, was living in Stewartsville, N.J., just over an hour from New York City when the attack happened. 

Her husband flew out of the Newark, N.J. airport on Sept. 10 to go to Texas and was supposed to fly back on Sept. 11. 

Her phone lines were cut off and she was in her home alone while her kids were at school. Her husband was unable to return until Sept. 15 and spent most of the time returning calls from loved ones, checking on her. 

Diana Delgross moved to Dawsonville summer 2021 after learning that her job with Johnson and Johnson in Pennsylvania was becoming fully remote, so she could live anywhere in the United States that she wanted. Her brother and sister-in-law live in Cumming and had begged Delgross for years to move closer. 

However, Delgross worked in the AT&T building in lower Manhattan for a non-profit called the Arthur Page Society on Sept. 11, 2001. 

9/11 2
Scenes from Sept. 11, 2001. Photos submitted by Jerry Marinich.
“It was a Tuesday...an absolutely gorgeous day,” Delgross said. “At the time, I lived in Madison, N.J., so I had to take the train into Penn Station. I was supposed to stop and get some office supplies at a place that I would go to regularly down by the Twin Towers, but on the way to the office, I thought that I would go in and get coffee first, then I would go get the stuff we needed.

“As I’m walking towards the office, I saw a plane flying very low. I thought to myself how odd that was. I looked away, put my coffee down on my desk and when I looked back, I saw all the flames. I went to get the executive director to look out the window. We just didn’t know what to say or do. At the time, we still didn't know it was a terror attack, we just thought it was a horrible accident.

After going back to her office, Delgross said she suddenly heard everybody screaming. When she came back out, she saw the second tower was on fire and knew that this was not just an accident. 

“It was sheer panic all around. When the towers fell, we knew we had to somehow escape. We all got together and put cloths over our faces, because you could hardly breathe with all the dust. We thought people were throwing furniture out the window of the towers, but it was people jumping.

“We walked over to South St. Sea Port because we heard the ferries were still running. Oddly enough, it seemed like everyone went in single-file. There was no conversation, no laughter or anything. It was so quiet. We got a ferry to Hoboken. The ferry was dead silent and all you could see was tears running down people’s faces, staring at where the Twin Towers used to be. It was just smoldering. It’s all very vivid.” 

Once back in Hoboken, NJ, first responders in hazmat suits hosed everyone coming from New York City off with a firehose while the people gave them their personal information. Delgross said she rode the train back to her home in Madison dripping wet. 

“I was living with my brother who worked in New Jersey. For a while, we had telephone communication, but communication was shot after the towers fell. I got back to Madison, but it was like nobody knew what was going on. Kids were playing in the street and people were casually chatting with each other. It was two worlds in one. I got home and was still in shock, so I just sat and stared because I didn’t want to listen to any reports. Those there knew that there weren’t going to be any survivors.

“The next day, I took a walk, because I couldn’t shake that feeling off and I didn’t know what to do. I lived right next to the Madison, NJ train station and all the cars that were parked there from people that were never coming back were being covered with black covers by policemen and firefighters. Eventually, they towed them away.”

Delgross and her co-worker worked from home for the next month following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. She said that afterwards, it was still an uncomfortable experience whenever a plane flew overhead. 

“The country did bounce back though, and we bounced back pretty well,” Delgross said. 

The 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks is Saturday, Sept. 11. 

The Dawson County Sheriff's Office, assisted by the Dawson County Fire and Emergency Services, will be holding a ceremony at 8:15 a.m, at the Dawson County High School Performing Arts Center, to honor those who lost their lives.

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