Five years ago Jimmy Sands went to work ~ just like any other day. As a member of the Fire Department City of New York, no day is actually typical. This particular day … changed every other one that followed.
On August 18, 2007 a call came in. There was a seven-alarm fire on the 17th floor of the Deutsche Bank building. Sands made it to the 15th floor of the skyscraper before he became trapped. Still, he made it out alive. Two of his colleagues didn’t. Sands now dedicates all of his free time to The New York Says Thank You Foundation in honor of his friends.
The foundation inherited the National 9/11 Flag, which is one of the largest American flags to fly above the wreckage at Ground Zero. For many, it has come to symbolize the American spirit that grew from the embers of the disaster. On September 11th, the flag was reduced to tatters. Yet, The New York Says Thank You Foundation kept it with them, as volunteers traveled across the country helped other communities rebuild after disaster — just as so many Americans helped to rebuild New York after 9/11.
When the group was in Greensburg, Kansas seven years ago helping tornado victims, several ladies noticed the flag. They began stitching it back together, as members of the Foundation worked to rebuild their city. At that moment, the 9/11 National Flag became a piece of living history. The flag is now on a journey across America as the 10 year anniversary of 9/11 draws near.
This weekend, it will be in Ellijay along with hundreds of volunteers ready to help rebuild a local animal rescue that was leveled during the April 4th tornadoes.
Sands is already in Northwest Georgia to oversee the transfer of The National 9/11 Flag on Thursday morning from the Atlanta airport to Marietta. At 1:30 p.m. Sands will hand-off the flag to Gilmer County Fire Chief Tony Pritchett. At approximately 2:45 p.m., officers from the Georgia State Patrol, Gilmer County Sheriff’s Department, and Gilmer County Fire Department will lead a flag procession from Marietta to Ellijay, where the flag will be on display throughout the weekend.
Currently, there is only one scheduled stop in Jasper along Thursday’s procession route, the Ingles grocery store parking lot; which is located at 1449 West Church Street, just off Georgia State Highway 515. However, Sands says they will make any number of impromptu stops necessary, depending on the number of people who line the procession. In other words, if a crowd has gathered to see the flag, they will stop to show it to them … by pulling off the road, taking the flag out and unfolding it for groups lined along Georgia State Highways 575 and 515.
A time hasn’t been assigned to the Jasper stop, because the number of impromptu stops simply isn’t known. Please note, the flag is expected to leave Marietta around 2:45 p.m.
Organizers are currently in contact with a local radio station to arrange call-ins along the procession route to keep everyone apprised of the travel time. The Foundation wants the flag to visit cities in all 50 states, before it will become a part of the permanent collection of the National September 11 Memorial Museum being built at the World Trade Center.
In addition to The National 9/11 Flag, hundreds of volunteers from across the country are expected in Ellijay this weekend. New York Says Thank You traditionally champions at least one rebuilding project near the 9/11 anniversary in which volunteers come to an area that has suffered disaster and they help that area recover and rebuild. This year, the Foundation chose to rebuild the Build An Ark Animal Rescue in Ellijay. The animal rescue was leveled in a recent tornado, yet all of the animals lived through the storm. Build An Ark houses about 60 rescue animals that are used as therapeutic companions for disabled children, senior citizens and juvenile offenders.
Everyone is invited to help with the construction project and all weekend events are free. The animal rescue is located near the Coosawattee River Resort development at 27 Eagle Mountain Drive in Ellijay. Events are scheduled throughout the weekend and are listed below.
New York Says Thank You
Helping Georgia Tornado Survivors Rebuild: The American Spirit at Home
TIMING OF EVENTS: (All events will take place at the “Build An Ark” Barn, located at 27 Eagle Mountain Drive in Ellijay, Georgia – unless noted)
11:20AM FDNY FIREFIGHTERS ARRIVE ATLANTA / AIRTRAN
1:00PM HONOR GUARD PROCESSION ACROSS GEORGIA FROM ATLANTA TO ELLIJAY
6:00PM COMMUNITY WELCOME KICK-OFF DINNER AT BARN
8:00AM FLAG RAISING CEREMONY AT BARN – WORK BEGINS THROUGH 5PM
6:30PM VOLUNTEER DINNER AT BARN
8:00PM COMMUNITY MOVIE NIGHT AT BARN — “NEW YORK SAYS THANK YOU” FILM
(Rain alternative at Gilmer High School – 408 Bobcat Trail, Ellijay, GA)
8:00AM WORK BEGINS THROUGH 5PM
12:00-3PM NATIONAL 9/11 FLAG ON DISPLAY AT GILMER HIGH SCHOOL (408 Bobcat Trail, Ellijay)
1:00PM FORMAL NATIONAL 9/11 FLAG STITCHING CEREMONY BEGINS
5:30PM “PAY IT FORWARD” CLOSING CEREMONY AT BARN
6:30PM VOLUNTEER DINNER AT BARN
7:00-10PM BLUEGRASS CONCERT AT BARN – COMMUNITY AND VOLUNTEERS INVITED
8:00AM 9/11 MEMORIAL BAGPIPE PROCESSION OF FIRST RESPONDERS AND VOLUNTEERS AT BARN
9:00AM COMMUNITY CELEBRATION SERVICE & MEMORIAL TREE DEDICATION
10:30AM FAREWELL BRUNCH AND VOLUNTEER SEND-OFF
About The New York Says Thank You Foundation:
Started in 2003 at the suggestion of a 5-year-old boy, The New York Says Thank You Foundation has
grown into the Nation’s largest direct service volunteer organization focused on the 9/11 Anniversary.
Each year around the 9/11 Anniversary, The New York Says Thank You Foundation sends hundreds of
volunteers from New York City along with disaster survivors from across the country to help rebuild
communities around the United States recovering from disaster.