VALDOSTA — Community members, first responders, city and county officials joined together to honor first responders and all the people who lost their lives during the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The Wednesday morning memorial ceremony in front of the Historic Lowndes County Courthouse marked the second year in a row the city and county held a joint event instead of two separate events.

A crowd of about 100 people gathered around the 9/11 memorial monument in front of the courthouse. The memorial was dedicated in 2002, on the one-year anniversary of the attacks.

Mayor John Gayle kicked off the event and praised the first responders who, when everyone was running away from the falling rubble and debris, bravely faced danger and almost certain death.

"We saw the TV, showing images of people running away from that building," Gayle said. "Yet, we also saw our first responders rushing into the same building. They face this almost on a daily basis. They are the ones who reach out and try to help us, to protect us."

Nearly 3,000 people died from the terrorist attacks; more than 400 first responders are included in that number. 

Gayle said every community across the United States must remember their sacrifice every year at this time.

"I want you all to join me in honoring our first responders, our police and firemen and our military and remember what that flag over there stands for," Gayle said.

Gayle said the city is happy to share the day with county officials, first responders and the public to remember 9/11.

Lowndes County Commission Chairman Bill Slaughter said the ceremony ensures the community doesn't forget what happened Sept. 11, 2001.

At the same time, the event was an opportunity to acknowledge the first responders in the community, including city and county law enforcement, fire officials and medical personnel.

"We appreciate them for the work that they do, and the possibility, every day, they could sacrifice their life to save someone else," Slaughter said. "It is extremely important that we recognize them."

The ceremony concluded with the mayor and chairman placing a wreath above the 9/11 memorial monument and shaking hands.

Thomas Lynn is a government and education reporter for The Valdosta Daily Times. He can be reached at (229)244-3400 ext. 1256

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