Flags were flown at half-staff on Friday, as they will for the rest of the weekend. However, the flag hanging from a ladder of a fire truck flew high above the Cobb Safety Village during a 9/11 memorial held there.
Sunday marks the 10th anniversary of the attacks that shook the nation to its core.
"We will always remember."
"We must never forget."
Those were the sentiments expressed and reiterated during the event, which was attended by a couple hundred police officers, firefighters, other public safety personnel, Cobb County officials and some county community members.
Cobb Fire Chief Sam Heaton, who led the memorial service, unveiled a piece of steel from the South Tower. The steel, which was donated from the New York City Port Authority, will remain in the Safety Village for its 20,000 annual visitors “so that we will never forget and so that our children will never forget,” Heaton said.
“I can honestly say that when we collected money, over $7,000, to take to New York, I never really thought I’d be emotional about inanimate objects. But when you get close to it, I don’t know how you can’t,” Heaton said.
Cobb County Police Officer Katrina Adams, a Brooklyn native who was training to be a New York Police Department officer during the time of the 9/11 attacks, led the Pledge of Allegiance at the event. Adams currently serves South Cobb at Precinct 2.
Assistant Chief Mike Korsch, a New York City first responder who arrived on the scene just as the second collapsed, explained his experience that day and his life afterward as members of the crowd listened intently and some wiped tears from their cheeks.
Korsch also helped with recovery efforts when the World Trade Center was attacked in 1993.
On Sept. 11, 2001, as they drove to what is now Ground Zero, Korsh and his squad from Brooklyn heard on the radio that the Twin Towers had been attacked; he said he shrugged it off because they had no idea of the scope of the attack.
Buildings that took more than three years to build collapsed to the ground in 10 seconds, Korsch said.
The first two bodies to come into the medical examiner’s office, where Korsch worked, were Father Michael Judge and Officer George Howell.
For the next seven months, none of the bodies that came in to the office were intact. Korsch and his team worked hard to identify them.
“We would receive helmets or portions of a gun belt from an NYPD officer or a uniform from Port Authority. And even if it just had a piece of skin in it, we processed it because it was something to give back to the loved ones.”
Korsch felt the loss firsthand. Two of his friends, a highway patrol officer and a firefighter, lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001.
“I don’t like to talk about closure. There’s no such thing as closure,” he said.
Although Korsch’s life was spared, he now suffers from throat cancer from inhalation of the smoke and dust, like many other first responders who were there that day. He has been classified as a victim under the World Trade Center Act enacted by former President George Bush in 2007.
“It’s hard,” he said. “It’s hard for my family seeing me sick for the last seven years.”
Because of his throat cancer, his dream of serving as a public safety officer in Cobb County never came to fruition.
Korsch retired and moved to Acworth with his family seven years ago. Now, as a regional representative of the 9/11 Police Aid Foundation and a member of the Georgia chapter of the Terry Farrell Firefighters Fund’s board of directors, he helps other first responders and volunteers who have health issues as a result of their involvement in the rescue and cleanup efforts after the 9/11 attacks.
Korsch constantly thinks about that day and the days that followed.
He shared with the assembled group of uniformed firefighters and officers that as he and his squad ran into the area, they pushed through the rubble, the thick dust and the thousands of people who were running toward them. All the while, they were receiving reports that planes were still headed toward the area.
He said that nearly every time he hears a plane, “I’ll stop whatever I’m doing at home and look up to the sky. It’s a constant reminder to me of 9/11.”
Like many Americans, he will always remember. For Korsch, it would be impossible to forget.