Two days before the 15th anniversary of the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, community members gathered at Fire Station No. 1 to remember the loss of life and the heroic acts of firefighters and first responders in the present and past.
Now known as Patriot Day, Sept. 11 marks the day when 2,977 people were killed during the attacks in New York City. Of those who died, 343 were firefighters, 60 were police officers and eight were emergency medical technicians or paramedics.
Students, veterans, emergency services members and government officials gathered to pay their respects at 9 a.m. Friday.
Dawson County Emergency Services Senior Chaplain Charles Blackstock led the prayer and introduced the speaker, Liberty Baptist Church Pastor Dennis Bottoms.
Bottom's speech centered around the service and sacrifice given by first responders at the trade center and in the community.
"First responders on 9/11 were acting in accordance with their sworn duty to protect the lives and property of others," Bottoms said. "The duty to serve is not limited however just to those in law enforcement and firefighters or emergency responders. Jesus taught that we all have a duty to serve others. Jesus told his disciples ‘I came not to be served, but to serve others.'"
Bottoms also said that the first responders to 9/11 were willing to sacrifice their safety for the safety of others.
"This was their duty, but I do not believe that duty alone explains their actions," Bottoms said.
"For a person to walk into a burning building that is in jeopardy of collapsing requires more than a sense of duty. It requires compassion for those in need. Jesus taught us to love one another, and to be willing to sacrifice our own comfort and desires for the sake of others. Only when we give ourselves away do we truly find meaning and joy in life."
Dawson County Emergency Services Chief Lanier Swafford officiated the service.
"On Patriot Day, each and every red-blooded American man, woman and child should be proud and take a point of pride for the great land that we live in. May God Bless America," Swafford said.
Swafford also presented a new memorial that contains a piece of load-bearing metal from one of the trade center towers. The memorial was constructed by Dawson County's Lanier Technical College's metal fabrication class.
"The memorial is here to touch and feel and remember that we were all changed that day, and the steel structure reminds us of the strength and endurance of America," he said.
Dawson County firefighter, emergency medical technician and U.S. Army veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom Chris Archer uncovered the memorial.
Attached to the top is a bell, which Swafford said was an important piece of equipment for fire services in the past.
Archer rang the bell during a moment of silence for those who lost their lives on 9/11.
Attending the service were Vietnam Veterans Chapter 970, Dawson County Emergency Services employees and volunteers, Dawson County Sheriff's Office and other county government and community members.
Many students from the Dawson County School System also attended, including those from Riverview Elementary, Robinson Elementary, Dawson County Junior High School Chorus and Dawson County High School Junior ROTC.