New York Fire Department Battalion Chief David Simms keeps the memories of 9/11 close.
He usually spends the anniversary with his firefighter brethren in New York City. They talk about the events of that day and the ones that followed with others who were there, as well as a younger generation of firefighters who were just teens during the attacks.
But Thursday in Beaufort, he spoke publicly for the first time.
Simms didn't speak about himself. He talked about his fellow firefighters, including Lt. Kevin Pfeifer and Cpt. John Fischer who died during the attacks. Pfeifer had talked him out of working an overnight shift Sept. 10. Fischer covered Simms' shift.
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"I never realized I was the first of hundreds of lives Kevin was going to save that day," Simms said.
More than 100 people, including local law enforcement, firefighters and American Red Cross volunteers, attended the annual 9/11 Commemorative Ceremony on Thursday morning in Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park.
Hilton Head Island resident Ted Druhot and Simms -- who traveled from New York after he was invited by organizer and city Councilwoman Donnie Beer -- were the featured speakers.
Druhot, a Red Cross volunteer, was sent to New York City immediately after the attacks. He spent three weeks assisting first-responders and those inquiring about survivors, casualties, transportation in and out of the city, and other information. He remembered a phone call with a man who'd been at the World Trade Center during the attacks and wanted to commit suicide.
That man went on to volunteer with the Red Cross.
"It was at that point that I realized all causalities of this event were victims, but not all victims were casualties," Druhot said.
Linda Self, a former Pentagon employee who moved to Beaufort in May, has attended ceremonies every year since the attacks, and this was her first in Beaufort.
She was at work Sept. 11, 2001, and remembers an announcement over the intercom for everyone to leave.
"When I got outside, there was this big, black ball of smoke," she said. "It wasn't brown. It wasn't gray. It was black."
Dwayne Jenkins of St. Helena Island stood for the playing of taps in recognition of the moment when U.S. Flight 175 struck the south tower of the World Trade Center at 9:03 a.m. But he quickly sat back down and buried his face in his hands. His girlfriend, Arnez Miller, held a photo of Jenkins' cousin, Wayne White, who worked in the north tower. Of the nearly 3,000 killed as a result of the attacks, more than 2,600 died at the Trade Center site.
Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.