A DeKalb County firefighter wants to make sure 9/11 is never forgotten.
Doug Harms, 32, a firefighter for six years, has led the effort to construct a memorial in DeKalb County to honor the nearly 3,000 people lost on Sept. 11, 2001, when terrorists hijacked four commercial planes. Two planes were flown into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, one was crashed into the Pentagon and the fourth was retaken by passengers and crashed in Pennsylvania.
“We’re a different country now since 9/11 so it’s important to remember what changed that and how it changed how we live our lives today,” Harms said. “It’s important never to forget…about the 3,000 people that were killed that day.”
Built on a 2,200-square-foot roundabout in front of the headquarters of the county’s fire rescue and police departments, the memorial will be dedicated during a special ceremony on the 10th anniversary of 9/11.
The memorial will be in the shape of a cross used by the New York Fire Department in its insignia. In the center of the memorial will be a large, 22,000-pound piece of granite in the shape of the pentagon. Flight markers on pedestals will surround the pentagon and there will be seven flags representing the United States, Georgia, DeKalb County, firemen, policemen, POW/MIAs and 9/11.The granite will be topped by a phoenix-winged sculpture, designed by former U.S. Marine and sculptor Curtis James Miller, and a piece of steel from the World Trade Center.
“A few counties in Georgia have received pieces of steel from the World Trade Center,” Harms said, “But in terms of the scale of this memorial and all of the information that’s going to be at this site I don’t think anything [like it] exists in the Southeast.”
The back wall of the memorial will be made of curved granite with the names of memorial donors on top. On the back will be the words, “We shall never forget.” The wall’s front will contain a quote from the-President George W. Bush’s address to the nation on the evening of 9/11: “These acts shatter steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve.”
The memorial contains information about each flight that was hijacked, where it took off, where it ended, and how many people were on board.
“There’s tons of information that we’re trying to put in the site,” Harm said. “I hope they [visitors] remember the details they have forgotten and they learn them again and maybe take it a step further and research it on their own.”
Although DeKalb County donated the land for the memorial, all the materials needed were paid for by donations, Harms said. The cost of the project is approximately $35,000. So far firemen have raised $28,00 through various fundraisers, including events at several restaurants and one at the Sugar Creek Golf Course.
“A lot of firefighters in the county have put a lot of time and energy and effort into this so it will be something that we can all be proud of and the county can be proud of,” Harms said.
The idea for the memorial came to Harms one day when he was sweeping the floor in the bunkroom of the Fire Station 24, where he works.
“I just remembered that it was the 10 year anniversary coming up,” Harms said. “I thought it would be cool if DeKalb County has something for the 9/11 10-year anniversary whether it was a ceremony or something. The idea just kind of grew from there into a really big project.”
Harms said all of the information for the memorial comes from the 9/11 Commission Report, commissioned by President Bush in 2002.
“Just hearing the quotes and the eyewitness accounts is hard reading,” Harm said. “But it’s well worth it to get this information out there. There’s a lot of details that need to be remembered and should be remembered.”
The events of 9/11 are never far from the mind of New York City firefighter Corey West, assigned to Engine 96 in the Bronx.
“Every single day there is always a reference to Sept. 11,” said West, who formerly worked at Station 24 with DeKalb County Fire Rescue.
West grew up in Albany, N.Y., and moved to Atlanta specifically to work as a fireman. Approximately a year-and-a-half after 9/11, he went to work for the New York City fire department. Although West made the move for the money, benefits and because he had family in the state of New York, the events of Sept. 11 were “definitely a contributing factor.”
“I am very, very, very passionate about fire service,” West said. “The New York City fire department is basically the biggest, best in the world.”
Since 9/11, many New York fire department operations have been revised, West said.
“Terrorism is addressed daily,” West said. “We got hurt on Sept. 11 and nobody has forgotten that.”
The 9/11 Remembrance Ceremony will begin at 8 a.m. Sunday with a caravan of public safety vehicles leaving the Bobby Burgess building on Memorial Drive and proceeding on Interstate 285 to LaVista Road on its way to the memorial located at 1960 West Exchange Place in Tucker.
On the bumper of a Station 24 heavy rescue vehicle will be the 16-inch-by-14-inch, 160-pound piece of steel from the World Trade Center. Four people will place steel in sculpture during the ceremony.
Harms said his hope is that the memorial will help keep the tragedy alive.
“It changed the U. S.,” Harms said. “It changed all of us. The world’s a different place now. It’s definitely something that needs to be remembered and learned about and read about. I hope people will take it and learn from it and appreciate the attack for what it was and what it is.”