A 52”x18”x18", 923-pound section of from the World Trade Center displayed on a sheet of red velvet and surrounded by memorial flowers was the center of a at Oconee Veterans Park Sunday that commemorated the 10-year anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Hundreds of citizens, members of the military, police, fire, and emergency personnel collectively prayed for the loved ones lost on that tragic day and acknowledged the countless sacrifices that have been made over the last decade.
"Since 9/11, more of our citizens have been killed in action protecting our freedoms than died on 9/11," remarked Melvin Davis, chairman of the Oconee County Board of Commissioners. "Thank God for those men and women who've served us well."
The mood was reverent as resident Laura Beth Wrenn belted the Star Spangled Banner and the Fire Department Honor Guard presented the colors.
"Our soldiers wear their medals on their chests, but our families wear their medals on their hearts," she said.
Since 9/11, over 10,000 of Georgia's citizen soldiers have been deployed, Britt said, adding that 900 are currently deployed and another 1,200 are preparing to mobilize within the next six months.
"God bless our service members and their family members," she said. God bless America."
Memorial wreaths were presented by Fire Station Chief Mike Link, First Sgt. Joey Colley of Winder’s 148th Company E, Oconee County Sheriff Scott Berry, Watkinsville Police Chief Lee O’Dillon, and Theresa Nutter, wife of Coleman Nutter, a Bogart resident who survived being on the 58th floor of the north tower on 9/11. Coleman was unable to attend on Sunday.
Throughout the ceremony, tears flowed and American flags waved.
For Watkinsville resident Ashley Vaughn, it was important to bring sons Landon, an student, and Samuel, a senior at , to the Remembrance Ceremony.
“We’ll never forget,” said Vaughn, who described himself as "just a patriotic American" thanks to his grandfather, Ralph Henderson, an Army Infantry soldier who fought in World War II.
Though Landon is only 7-years-old, his father has taught him about the events of September 11, 2001.
Sheriff Berry gave Landon a pin that he proudly displayed on his tie.
"It was cool," Landon said. “I got to see people from the military, firefighters and police officers."
He solemnly slid his small hand along a side of the steel beam as his father whispered in his ear.
And the Vaughns and other Oconee residents may return to the Community Center to view the beam because it will permanently be on display.
Oconee County will never forget.