Williams' son, Maj. Dwayne Williams, a Jacksonville native, was in a meeting at the Pentagon that day when a commercial jet crashed into the building, killing him and 183 others. Friends gathered with Williams at her home that evening to be with her while she waited to learn whether her son had been killed, but she wouldn’t find out until 10 days later.
“The memories surface this time of year,” Williams said, sitting in her Jacksonville home, where pictures of her son still hang on the walls. “I go back, but I don’t stay there.”
To be sure she is not the only person who remembers what happened that day, Williams has hosted a memorial service on the anniversary of the attack each year for the last 10 years. This year will be no different. She asks people to gather at the public cemetery in Jacksonville at 11 a.m. Wednesday for the memorial.
“It’s a monumental task, but it’s a labor of love,” Williams said. “I don’t want anyone to forget about the sacrifice Dwayne and others made that day.”
Each year, Williams said, she begins planning for the memorial about six months before the event. She calls on a speaker to attend, a performer to sing the national anthem, orders flowers and has someone clean the stone markers that stand in the cemetery in memory of her son.
Maj. Dwayne Williams was a Jacksonville High School graduate who earned a football scholarship to the University of North Alabama. After finishing college he went on to enlist in the Army, where he became a Ranger, served in the Persian Gulf War and completed officer training.
He had been stationed at the Pentagon for eight weeks when he was killed, his mother said.
“When he got the assignment to go to the Pentagon, he was elated,” she said. “That was the pinnacle of his career.”
Williams said her life is much different than it was in the months and years that passed immediately after terror attacks.
“This is not a sad story,” she said.
At Wednesday's service, Dwayne Williams’ wife, Tammy Williams, will be on hand to help lay a wreath. Their children, Tyler and Kelsey Williams, are now in their 20s.
Today Pearl Williams, a Christian, said she spends time helping other people through ministry. And, she said, she tries to exemplify some of the characteristics her son possessed while doing benevolent work, such as working with drug addicts.
“God’s light shined through him, and now I’m carrying on his work and it’s shining through me,” she said.
Staff writer Laura Gaddy: 256-235-3544. On Twitter @LGaddy_Star.
Local 9/11 events:
Anniston: Centennial Memorial Park, 9 a.m.
Jacksonville: Jacksonville City Cemetery, 11 a.m.
Jacksonville State University: event honoring first responders, symposium, disaster volunteer training, open house, service workshop, 11th floor of Houston Cole Library, 10 a.m.