Alabamian, brother of 9/11 victim, shares thoughts on the importance of today

Roy Williams
Roy Williams standing beside his brother’s memorial. (Black Warrior Riverkeeper)

Americans will never forget the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001—and some of the lives lost impacted Alabamians directly. One of those was Roy Williams, Director of Public Relations for the Birmingham Public Library, who’s brother, Major Dwayne Williams, perished in the attack. We talked with Roy Williams to learn more about his brother’s life and legacy, and here’s what he told us about the significancy of both his brother’s sacrifice.

Major Dwayne Williams was a hero in many ways

In our conversation with Roy Williams, he related a conversation he had with his nephew, Major Dwayne Williams’ son.

“He told me, ‘You know, Uncle, I’m at peace now.'”

Roy Williams

The two discussed how they now focus on happy memories rather than the tragedy.

Roy Williams shared with us some of those happy memories, especially how much of a hero his brother was—both in athletics and in the military.

Dwayne Williams was a standout athlete at Jacksonville High and the University of North Alabama. His skills on both the football field and the basketball court won the awe of his little brother, Roy. Later, Dwayne Williams was best man at Roy’s wedding.

“I always looked up to my brother.”

Roy Williams

He continued his success when he went into the military. When 40-year-old Major Dwayne Williams passed in the 9/11 attacks, he left behind a wife and two children. The family, including Major Dwayne Williams’ three brothers and mother Pearl, have worked to preserve his legacy over the past 22 years.

Tributes to Major Dwayne Williams, both local + national

Dwayne Williams 9/11 Victim
Major Dwayne Williams’ memory will live on through many tributes. (Roy Williams)

Major Dwayne Williams’ legacy and sacrifice remain alive in many ways, just some of which are listed below.

  • Memoir: 911, God Help Us – A Journalist’s Tale of Faith: How Losing a Brother in Sept. 11 Terrorist Attack Transformed Reporter Into a Witness for God by Roy L. Williams (brother of Major Dwayne Williams)
  • Children’s Book: A Hero Called Fish by Pearl K. Williams (mother of Major Dwayne Williams)
  • Scholarships: The Army Major Dwayne Williams Memorial Scholarship at Jacksonville State University and The Army Major Dwayne Williams Scholarship at University of North Alabama
  • Memorial: Army Major Dwayne Williams 9/11 Pentagon Memorial
  • Buildings: Two buildings were named after Major Dwayne Williams in honor of his military service—one at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas (where he went to military officer training) and another at Fort Jackson, South Carolina (where he served).
  • Uniform Number: The University of North Alabama, where Dwayne played football as a wide receiver, retired his uniform number (33) after his death.
  • Bench: Major Dwayne Williams has a bench at the Pentagon Memorial in Washington, D.C.
  • Citizenship Award: Kitty Stone Elementary in Jacksonville gives the Major Dwayne Williams citizenship award, chosen by teachers, to one if their students each year.
  • Song: “My Brother,” written by Kim Williams in remembrance of his brother, Major Dwayne Williams

In addition, Major Dwayne Williams was honored in the unveiling of the Alabama Fallen Warriors monument in Trussville, Alabama.

To this day, Roy Williams still heard from people about how impactful Major Dwayne Williams was in their lives.

“Over 20 years later, I still hear from people who were touched by my brother’s life—either as a military leader or as a friend.

He touched lives far beyond our family and continues even 22 years after his death to touch lives.”

Roy Williams

Why it’s important to still remember 9/11

Dwayne Williams 9/11 Victim
Major Dwayne Williams has been remembered in many ceremonies since 9/11. (Roy Williams)

Roy Williams emphasized how important it is for Americans to remember the attacks of 9/11, which claimed his brother’s life along with over 3,000 others.

“The point I want to get across is I would like people, as we reflect on 9/11, to never forget the sacrifice.”

Roy Williams

Beyond just remembering 9/11, Roy Williams hopes that we will reflect intentionally on how to unite as a nation.

“I hope as people reflect on 9/11 on Monday, that they would return to how we were as a country after 9/11—in the midst of tragedy, we united.

If we could…show love to each other and show gratitude for sacrifices made by the victims of 9/11, then I think it would do our nation some good. “

Roy Williams

For young people who may not remember 9/11, it’s especially important to keep the memory alive.

“People in his generation…were too young to really know what happened, and I think it’s important for us to let this generation know this really happened in your lifetime.

Our nation was attached in the most dramatic way ever, and the freedoms that you enjoy were bought with a price, unfortunately. People like my family and my brother have shed blood, sweat and tears for this freedom that so many of us take for granted.

It’s been 22 years, but for those of us who lived it like me, we live it every day.”

Roy Williams

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Sarah Gronberg
Sarah Gronberg
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