STOCKBRIDGE — The 18th anniversary of the worst terrorist attack on American soil was observed by the city of Stockbridge and Henry County in separate ceremonies on Wednesday.
In Stockbridge, the city marked the anniversary with multiple moments of silence which coincided with the time that different events happened on Sept. 11, 2001.
The keynote speaker for the memorial service was Col. (Retired) Stephanie Dawson, who worked as a program manager for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey around that time. The Port Authority owned and operated the World Trade Center complex.
Her office was located in the World Trade Center, and she spoke of the incredible luck that kept her from being in her office, on the 71st floor of One World Trade Center, that day.
Specifically, she had no meetings that morning. She said that was something that never happened.
"On 9/11, I took my time and slowly made my way to work later than my normal reporting time. As a result, I was outside One World Trade Center right after the first plane hit, rather than in my office on the 71st floor."
Dawson said she had heard there was some sort of "police action" going on at the World Trade Center, but there was frequently police activity at the facility, she said.
"So, many of us just switched to the A-Train from the E-Train, thus outside the World Trade Center," Dawson said. "To our surprise, the street was already being cordoned off, and as I emerged from the steps, I saw a giant tire fragment from the airplane that had hit World Trade Center One, which was my home as a member of the Port Authority."
Dawson said there was a lot of commotion as people rushed toward Church Street nearby.
"At that point, I looked up and saw a big blue sky with harsh red flames and a lot of smoke on One World Trade Center. From my angle, I could not see Two World Trade Center."
Dawson said she and others had heard that the building would collapse, or perhaps tip over. She thought that was ridiculous as they had believed the construction of the World Trade Center towers was too strong.
Later, Dawson spoke of accounting for her staff that day, and discovered that one person was unaccounted for.
"My job was to talk to families that day," she said.
That person, John Fischer, was a part of her security technology staff and a security consultant.
"Many lives changed that day," she said.
Henry County's ceremony, held at the Jason T. Harper Event Center in McDonough, was coordinated by the public safety agencies of the county. The keynote speaker, 1st Lt. Joseph Parker Cole, recounted his memories of the day as a 6-year old child, and spoke of how those memories and his father's service as a Marine and police officer inspired him to enlist in the Marine Corps upon graduation from college.