Like most Americans his age, David Edmiston remembers where he was and what he was doing on Sept. 11, 2001. But more importantly, the Fort Gordon firefighter said, is he remembers how countless people responded to the events of that tragic day – a day in which nearly 3,000 perished in what has gone down in history as the single largest loss of life from a foreign attack on U.S. soil.
Edmiston was among a group of Fort Gordon first responders at the center of a 9/11 remembrance ceremony held at the Signal Towers flagpole. The ceremony was broadcasted live on social media to ensure maximum viewership and participation amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gathered around the base of the flagpole, first responders stood motionless until a cannon team fired a cannon at 8:46 a.m., signifying the first strike on the World Trade Center and serving as a cue for first responders to lower the American flag to half-staff. Once the flag was secured, personnel saluted the flag to the sound of a lone bugler playing Taps. Everyone – participants and spectators – was then asked to observe a moment of silence.
Edmiston said he remembers 9/11 “like it was yesterday,” and how in a matter of minutes, everybody’s life seemed to change.
“Three thousand people went to sleep on Sept. 10, not knowing what was going to transpire the following morning,” he said. “It just gives you a little bit of insight – don’t take anything for granted because you never know from one minute to the next what’s going to happen.”
With 31 years of experience under his belt, Edmiston was a firefighter working for a local municipality at the time of the terrorist attacks. Like many firefighters he knows, Edmiston’s passion to serve as a firefighter never wavered, and instead grew since 9/11.
“This is the way that I give back to the military so that when the troops are activated and deployed, they can leave knowing that they have competent people that will be here to protect their loved ones that they’re leaving behind.”
Having grown up with a father in the military, Ashley Taylor, Fort Gordon firefighter, said she had plans to join the military prior to 9/11. She was in high school when the news began unfolding, and watching it, she said, helped solidify her decision. She enlisted in the Army as a firefighter, where she went on to serve 14 years in uniform, then continued to serve as a firefighter as a civilian.
“To give back to my country both ways – it boosted me to be more motivated towards it, to have passion towards firefighting – so I continue, “Taylor said.
As the 20th anniversary approaches, both firefighters agreed it is important to remember the events of 9/11 with each passing today.
“As a firefighter … this moment right here … it is forever in our hearts,” Taylor said. “We should never forget.”
As important as it is to remember those who lost their lives and responded in a time of tragedy, Edmiston said there are valuable lessons to be had as well.
“Even though things might be running smoothly and whatnot, I know it had taught me not to let my guard down” he said. “I’m always checking, I’m always observant of what’s going on around in my surroundings.”
Following the ceremony, subsequent cannon blasts were fired throughout the morning – 9:03 a.m., 9:37 a.m., and 10:03 a.m. – marking each moment of impact when planes struck on 9/11.
A total 2,977 were killed in attacks when American Airlines Flight 11 struck the North Tower of the World Trade Center, and United Flight 175 struck the South Tower of the World Trade Center in Manhattan, New York; American Airlines Flight 77 struck the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and a fourth plane – United Airlines Flight 93 – crashed in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, after passengers steered the plane’s hijacker away from its intended target in Washington, D.C. An undetermined number of people are believed to have died from health complications stemming from the attacks during years that followed.