FERNANDINA BEACH, Fla. – Journey Church in Fernandina Beach held a memorial service Saturday 20 years after the deadly attack on Sept. 11, 2001.
The ceremony honored the first responders in our area.
“I think today is really about promises made and promises kept. These days of remembrance like this, I think, are very important to let all of the first responders who serve every day we make a promise to them to never forget their sacrifice,” Congressman John Rutherford said.
Those in attendance also honored the 13 soldiers who died in Afghanistan as U.S. forces withdrew from the country.
There were photos of the 343 servicemen and women who died during 9/11 and the guest speaker was a retired New York firefighter.
“I thought we were invincible. I thought nobody could touch us, and yet here we were. Attacked,” Eddie Zeilman said.
Zeilman wasn’t supposed to work on that day. He heard on the radio the World Trade Center had been attacked, and immediately went to his fire station, and headed that way.
“A few people were rescued. The word recovery became a thing a day or two later. I spent my entire day and night at the site,” Zeilman said. “There was a purpose, and the purpose was to bring home anything and everything to families.”
For nine months, he remembers doing whatever he could to help recover what was left underneath the rubble. Zeilman said it changed everything for him, and amplified his love and the respect he has for first responders and their families who go on without their loved ones.
“God bless, not just the 343, the wife, their family, the children, to see their kids who came to the fire house grow up is priceless,” Zeilman said.
He also said it’s imperative to never forget the moments and scenes that took place 20 years ago.
Firefighters said this day was a gut check to their profession, that brought a lot of pride. They said though so much has changed since 9/11, the need to honor lives lost and continue serving has not.
“It’s not only don’t forget, and we’ll never forget, but it’s also like the speaker spoke today, what can you do to make a difference in your community and in your world,” said Lt. Adam Salzburg, of Nassau County Fire Rescue.
The retired New York fireman was given a flag that flew over the U.S. Capitol representing first responders everywhere. Nassau County first responders also gave him a badge, thanking him for his service.