Valdosta Daily Times

September 12, 2013


Far away, but close at heart

Matthew Woody
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — A large American flag stood tall and proud over Valdosta Fire Station #1 Wednesday on the 12th anniversary of 9/11.

It was supported by two boom fire trucks on either side. While at the front of the building, the flag stood at half mast on its pole. It was at half mast to remember the nearly 3,000 people who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001.

The sky was clear and sunny, while the mood was mournful as the City of Valdosta remembered the horrific events that took place 12 years ago.  Leading into the moment of silence, Valdosta Fire Chief J.D. Rice said, “Although 14,794 people were rescued, and saved that tragic day, we will never forget the ones that were not.”

Rice asked the crowd to stand and observe a moment of silence at 8:46 a.m., in remembrance of the first airplane attack.

After the moment of silence, the VFD Pipe and Drum Corps performed “Amazing Grace.” Next, a combined color guard of Valdosta Police Department and VFD members presented the colors. A VFD member presented the American flag while a VPD officer presented the Georgia flag. Valdosta Police Chief Brian Childress led the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance. Once the flags were posted, they were saluted.

A tearful Mayor John Gayle approached the podium which had the Seal of the Azalea City on it, and said, “We’re here this morning to honor, and to pay tribute to those who lost their lives on this day 12 years ago.”

With emotion in his voice, Gayle continued, “We especially want to honor the first responders the almost 500 that gave their lives trying to protect and save those who were trying to get out of the World Trade Center that was bombed by our enemies.”

He then said that patriotism was at its acme then, and he hoped that the patriotism has remained, at the same level, in our hearts.

Gayle paid tribute to not only the firefighters and police officers of Valdosta, but to all of the first responders throughout the country because on a daily basis they give their time, and sadly, sometimes, their lives.

Bringing up the recent industrial park fire, Gayle thanked Valdosta’s first responders by saying that they worked so diligently to rush into and extinguish a fire that they knew little about.

Gayle concluded by saying, “We’re here today to pay tribute and to pledge allegiance to this country, this great country, that God has blessed so much.”

The Woodmen of the World presented both VFD and VPD with an American flag, thanking the departments for the services, dedication, and hard work they provide to Valdosta on a daily basis.

VFD Lt. Dereck Willis spoke about the tradition of the bell and fire codes. Willis said, “Tradition has it that in early days of firefighting, the company was given an alarm by ringing in a code. The alarm code often toned by ringing a large bell. The bell was fire service tradition.”

He stated that the alarm code “5-5-5” signified a death in the line of duty, and is rung at funeral services to say good-bye to fallen firefighters. Willis continued by saying, “After 9/11, a new code was introduced to the fire service of all America. That code was 3-4-3; that is how many firefighters fell during 9-11.”

Requesting that the crowd stand and hold hands, Willis asked VFD Sgt. Jon Yeargan to tone the 3-4-3 code to honor those who bravely sacrificed their life on that tragic day 12 years ago.

Concluding the ceremony, the VFD’s sirens cried a salute to the firefighters who selflessly sacrifice