CHARLESTON, SC (WMBF) - Hundreds of first responders from across the state gathered in Charleston Sunday to mark the 15th anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks.
"It's important that we really make sure people never forget about this," Tian Griffieth, the organizer of the 9/11 Silent Walk said. "This is the Pearl Harbor of our life time."
In full gear, fire fighters, officers and other emergency responders walked the span of the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge to Mount Pleasant and back, 5.4 miles in all.
For one local paramedic from Florence County, the event marked a special moment, not just in remembrance of the victims of the attacks, but in her own recovery from a tragic wreck that has forever changed her life.
"I mean I wish I was in gear walking with my guys, but next year maybe. I'm hoping," Tessie Smith said. "I hate that they are having to push me and tote my weight right now, but it is what it is and we will get pass that and move on."
She saved her steps and strength to work out her new prosthetic leg on the flatter surfaces. She showed just how far she's come since an ambulance crash earlier this year took her leg and changed her life.
"I'm still learning this leg. I'm still learning to walk," Smith said. It puts it in a whole different perspective because now I can see both sides of it. The first responder side, but I can also see the patient side."
It wasn't easy going up and down the hills of the bridge that spans the Cooper River. However, the the progress Smith has made through this walk to remember the victims of the 9/11 terror attacks is much like the progress she's made through her own recovery.
"That's life, period, for anybody," Smith said." I have an extra thing I have to work against, but it's all uphill and you aren't going to be able to get to
the other side and see the beauty on the other side if you don't make that climb."
It's been just one short month since she first tried on her prosthetic leg. Now, she's taking serious strides to get back to where she was before.
"I'm thankful for people pushing me on days when I just didn't want to do anything," Smith said.
The end was bitter sweet. A ring of a bell marked the finish to a strenuous day, but still a long road of recovery ahead.
Meanwhile, another local first responder marked the September 11th anniversary with an even longer walk, trekking her way from Darlington to Charleston for Sunday's event.
Anna Dewitt works with Darlington County EMS, and she wanted to do something special to remind people who the victims of the attacks on the World Trade Center were.
She did that by running 343, 3-mile runs, one for every firefighter killed 15 years ago.
"A lot of people know the number 343, but no one knows their names or what they look like or what their families were or what they did as hobbies," Dewitt said. "I feel like me finding that out and posting it allowed these people to become real to a lot of Americans and not just a number."
You can visit her facebook page by clicking here.