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Three local first responders share their stories of working on 9/11

Published: Sep. 11, 2021 at 10:52 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - On the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, three local first responders share their stories. All three were on duty in different parts of the state that fateful day.

“That’s when I knew how dangerous my job was, and that’s when I knew how much more dangerous my job was going to be,” former Byram Police Department Sergeant Jason Scott Lawrence said.

For these three first responders in Byram, Pearl, and Jackson, September 11, 2001, started out like any other day. But in the blink of an eye, it quickly turned into a day they’d never forget. All of them were watching as the second plane hit the twin towers at the World Trade Center in New York City.

“I remember him coming in and putting his arm on my shoulder,” Lawrence said. “And I looked up at him, and I said, ‘Chief, what’s going on?’ He looked down at me, and he said, ‘Son, that’s war right there.’”

“The first words out of the chief’s mouth at that point was, ‘this is intentional,’” Pearl Fire Department Chief Brad Thornton said. “And we all knew at that point that something was going on. We felt like our country was under attack.”

“We were all sitting around the TV watching, seeing the second plane hit,” Jackson Fire Department Engine 7 Captain David Griffin said. “And then we knew what kind of incident it was, and from that point on - the rest of the day - it was a hard shift to complete. It was a long day.”

Captain Griffin describes the fire services as a brotherhood. He said watching crews respond in New York City that day was a feeling like no other.

“Even though we didn’t know those guys, we’re still like brothers,” Griffin said. “So all over the country, the impact of their fire department was felt throughout our departments. Their loss was our loss.”

Shortly after the attacks, Captain Griffin and Chief Thornton said just about every firefighter in each of their departments here in the Magnolia State volunteered to go up to New York and help.

Two decades later, Chief Thornton said we continue to see first responders answering the call for help around the world. He said that’s just the American way.

“Here we are 20 years later fighting a pandemic,” Thornton said. “Once again - in the early stages - nobody knew what we were facing. But still, you got those people who will just stand up and say, ‘You know what, I’ll face it.’ You’ve seen it with nurses, and you’ve seen it with doctors.”

Among other things, all three said that patriotism and respect toward first responders are some of the main lasting impressions of 9/11, even 20 years later.

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