GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. -- Where you were and what you were doing on this day 16 years ago is forever etched in your mind. First responders remember with an even higher level of understanding, and on Monday they took a moment to reflect and show honor.
There's a grassy field between the Guntersville Fire Station and the city's transportation building. On Monday morning some of the firefighters ornamented its manicured landscaping with a podium. First responders from across Marshall County stood in straight lines at attention, donned in their dress uniforms as a sign of respect.
As the first drops of rain from Hurricane Irma sprinkled down, the ceremony started. It was about 7:30, minutes before a noted time on September 11, 16 years ago.
"My wife had called me that morning. She told me the plane had hit the World Trade Center," said Guntersville Fire Marshal Buddy Pettry.
"My heart sunk and I thought 'this is not an accident,'" Guntersville Fire and Rescue Chief Brian Waldrop said, "As the day went on you start witnesses our firemen and our public safety people running to the Trade Centers, and I could put myself in their shoes, me being a fireman myself."
That moment when you heard the news 16 years ago is as clear as what you had for breakfast today. It's a moment in time that won't be forgotten. Responders from across Marshall County wanted to make sure that they took the time to commemorate this anniversary with respect.
Guntersville Mayor Leigh Dollar spoke at the ceremony. One of the firemen played Taps. Marshall County Sheriff's Office deputies gave a gun salute. Two firemen lowered the flag to its rightful position for the day. The crowd held a moment of silence.
"I remember just the desperation on everyone's face, including the first responders," Guntersville Police Chief Jim Peterson said, "I can't imagine having to deal with that, even with the years of experience that I have."
"As brothers, as firemen, as police officers, as any public servant, when you're called you have to put the fear aside and just react," said Chief Waldrop, "It's still tough. Especially days like today, this anniversary still brings back those old memories. We just wanted to make today special, as we should."