Major, United States Army
Major Dwayne Williams
Army Major Dwayne Williams spoke often of retiring in two years. During the last 13, he had served as a paratrooper and a Ranger. He served in the Persian Gulf War and in July was posted to the Pentagon.
Williams, 40, has been missing since Flight 77 crashed into the section of the Pentagon where he worked. Last weekend, much of the Williams family gathered in his native Jacksonville, Alabama, and tried to make sense of the tragedy.
"He got a nice, good job for his last two years. But who'd believe something like this would happen?" said his brother, Air Force Staff Sergeant Troy Williams, of the Geilenkirchen NATO Air Base in Germany.
As a high school football player, Dwayne Williams won a full scholarship to the University of North Alabama, in Florence. He has another brother in military service: Army Staff Sergeant Kim Williams is stationed in Arizona. A fourth brother, Roy Williams, is a business reporter for the Birmingham News.
Williams is survived by his wife, Tammy; son, Tyler, 17; and daughter, Kelsie, 13.
"We have faith," Troy Williams said from his mother's home yesterday. "We're all Christians and know he's in a better place. We'll see him again."
-- Steven Gray
Shoulders shook and silent tears ran down the faces of more than 100 family and friends gathered to remember Army Major Dwayne Williams, a victim of the September 11 attack on the Pentagon.
These signs of grief and the occasional hushed pause as a few speakers fought to control sobs in their throats, however, were the only evidence of sadness at the memorial service Friday at Ebenezer A.M.E. Church in suburban Washington as those who had gathered praised the Lord and thanked God for the love they had shared with Williams.
The burial will be on October 13, in Arlington
National Cemetery, according to
Hands clapped and waved in the air as everyone in the church except the family rose to their feet to sing the opening song, "When we all see Jesus, we will sing and shout the victory."
Swaying with the music, the congregation smiled and shouted the victory of knowing that Williams, a veteran of the Gulf War, was now with God.
Afterward, a prayer by Army Lieutenant Colonel Chaplain Lindsey E. Arnold seemed to capture the feeling of those gathered as he thanked God for giving Williams to the world to know and love.
"Console those of us who mourn until we are united with Dwayne and those who have gone before us through those gates," he prayed.
Praise for Williams' strong faith and the dedication he always showed for the service to his family, his nation and to God were mentioned repeatedly.
"An enemy tried to destroy him, and death tried to take him, but they couldn't because the Lord already had him," said Brigadier General Bennie W. Williams, a close friend and the Deputy Commanding General, 21st Theater Support Command, U.S. Army Europe and 7th Army.
Focusing on hope for the future, Colonel Karl
Knoblauch, who worked with
He laughed as he remembered Williams arriving promptly at 6:15 that morning and setting up his Palm Pilot, which no one else in the office could figure out how to work. But Knoblauch's smiling mouth turned stiff as he voiced the painful truth that an office of 20 had lost seven and that three others were injured.
Major Judith Davenport, who worked in the U.S. Army Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel and was with Williams the morning of the attack, began her tribute by joking about how much she and Williams used to laugh and sympathize about raising their children. She became emotional when she told how Williams had saved her life that morning.
Williams had told Major Davenport to go home and that he would stay and take care of things. With tears in her eyes, she looked at Williams' wife, Tammy, and chokingly thanked her saying; "He saved my life by telling me to go."
Other friends also tried to look beyond their grief and offer reassurance by speaking about how wonderful it was to be Williams' friend, even if that relationship was cut short too soon.
Bertrand Graham, a long-time friend of Williams and a member of the State Department, told the gathering that as painful as it is to lose a friend, and how much more painful it must be to lose a family member, father or husband, it would be far worse to have never had the blessing to know that person.
Graham also spoke of the recent joys and the wonderful sounds of happiness that he had heard from Williams' family during the recent time he had spent with them.
"Those sounds are more beautiful than a thousand songbirds at daybreak," he said. "Dwayne would have loved that sound. He would have been proud that his family and friends came to comfort his wife, proud that you all turned this curse into a blessing, and when you get right to it, aren't we all proud of Dwayne, too?"
Looking at Dwayne's children, 17-year-old Tyler, a senior at Hayfield High School, and 13-year-old Kelsie, an eighth-grader at Hayfield Middle School, both in Alexandria, Virginia, he smiled and told them how proud he was of them and how much their father loved them.
"You children are your father's greatest legacy," he said.
Army Specialist Michael Anderson, from Fort
Bragg North Carolina, also whispered a
The service concluded with acknowledgements from Graham, the obituary reading by Army Major B. J. Constantine, a selection from Dwayne Williams' brother, Kim Williams, and a message of comfort from the Rev. Grainger Browning Jr., senior pastor at the church.
As family and friends stood at the end to support
one another, the strains of "When we all see Jesus, we will sing and shout
for Victory," seemed to linger in the cool, crisp sunny afternoon air.
Friends and family say Army Major Dwayne Williams was the embodiment of that one word.
That was evident Thursday as hundreds turned out for a memorial service at First Baptist Church in Jacksonville to honor him and show their love and respect for a family whose roots are anchored deep in the community.
Dwayne Williams, 40, the eldest son of Pearl and Horace Williams, died in the September 11 terrorist attack on the Pentagon, where he had been stationed since June. He will be buried October 13 in Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia.
A memorial service for all the victims of the Pentagon attack is scheduled for Thursday in Washington, D.C.
"Dying for one's country is supposed to be one of the most noble acts of humankind," Jacksonville Mayor Jerry Smith said before presenting the Williams family a proclamation designating October 4 a day of mourning and remembrance.
"This community has sustained a great loss," Smith said.
Friends and family told stories of Major Williams' life, remembering the funny things he did, the happy times when they were together and the character that made everyone who knew him look up to him with respect and admiration.
Major Williams' brother, Roy Williams, remembered him as a great athlete in school, and recalled how his friends called him "fish" because he was such a good swimmer. He reminisced about Dwayne's ability to fix almost anything that broke, and how Dwayne flew from South Carolina to Birmingham to help him hang wallpaper in his and his wife's new house.
"I will always remember my brother Dwayne. He was my friend, my confidant and my weekly e-mail companion," Roy said. "I knew I could always count on Dwayne."
Dr. Tom Malone, retired schoolteacher and counselor from Jacksonville High School remembered Dwayne Williams as an integral part of the student body, calling him a "classic example" of what American education is all about.
"He was motivated by the influence of a caring, loving family," Malone said. "Dwayne Williams took advantage of the opportunities at Jacksonville High School."
A former roommate and football teammate at the University of North Alabama, Army Major Lonzie McCants, remembered the night Dwayne met his wife, Tammy, and how Dwayne came in and played Luther Vandross on the stereo all night long afterward.
McCants remembered one of their favorite things - the soap opera, "All My Children." He laughed as he told of them racing across campus after class so they wouldn't miss a minute.
"He was a star athlete and a highly decorated soldier," McCants said. "He wanted to excel in athletics and on the football field."
Brigadier General Michael Rochelle, one of
Maj. Williams' commanding officers at
"Those eyes aglow and his magnificent smile are what caused men in the desert, facing uncertain outcome, to follow him and respect him," Rochelle said.
Lieutenant Colonel Dave Griffith played with Major Williams on their battalion softball team. He told of his remarkable character and his ability to focus.
"He was someone I could always count on. He had a big heart and the courage of a lion," Griffith said. "He would tell us now to focus."
And those in attendance did just that. They focused not on what they lost, but on how their friendship with Dwayne Williams had enriched their lives.
Jacksonville State University's Gospel Choir sang songs of praise, of light at the end of every darkness and of joy in the morning.
Although tears flowed down many faces, it was not a day of mourning death. It was a day of celebrating life.
Major Williams lived in Virginia with his wife, Tammy, and their two children, Tyler, 17, a senior at Hayfield High School, and Kelsie, 13, an eighth-grader at Hayfield Middle School, both in Alexandria, Virginia.
Representing Governor Don Siegelman's office,
Brigadier General Mike Sumrall, adjutant general for the Alabama National
Guard, presented the Williams family with
"Dwayne Williams is a true American hero,"
Dear Mr Michael Patterson:
First of all, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for the honor that you bring to so many families with this site. My younger brother, Roy L. Williams, e-mailed it to me the other day and I could not wait to see the information on my brother, Dwayne.
I am enclosing an attachment about a song tribute, entitled "My Brother". I wrote the song 2 days after learning of my brother's death in the tragedy on September 11th. I would like to know if you can skim through the article and possibly place some of the information within the site. My younger brother, Roy and my Mother, Pearl K. Williams have both written books about September 11th which are currently on Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.com. Music and the written word have been our source of healing for our loved one.
Also, in the site,I am listed as a Staff Sergeant, I was a Sergeant First Class during the time of the incident and have recently retired from the military as of September 30th, 2002 with twenty years of service. Could you possibly look at placing the attached picture on the site. It shows Dwayne and his wonderful smile, which we are all fond of.
Again, thank you for your time and efforts in memory of so many who gave their lives. I would also like to send you a copy of my CD, My Brother.
Retired Army Veteran Releases CD in Tribute
to His Brother Killed in
The CD contains a live version of the title
track "My Brother" plus the original composition of "My Brother" he penned
nearly two weeks after his brother, Army Major Dwayne Williams, perished
in the Pentagon attack. The mini-album also includes three other ballads
and R&B songs, all written, and composed by the artist. A full 13-song
album of original tunes penned by Williams, including a Spanish version
of "My Brother," will be released in the spring of 2004.
The two brothers are believed to be the only
siblings of a 9/11 terrorist victim who have written both a CD and book
in tribute to one of the fallen heroes of that day. Their mother, Pearl
Williams, has written a children's book, A Hero Called Fish, about her
son's sacrifice which was released in December,2003. Pearl Williams, who
gives inspiration talks in schools, aims to teach young children how to
pay tribute to the heroes of 9/11. Her son Dwayne's childhood nickname
His aim is to let the terrorist network that
sought to destroy the United States' security and love of life know that
they failed. "My Brother" will showcase to listeners across the world that
America's faith in God, country and our fellow man remains as strong
today as it did prior to 9/11.
Huachuca soldier turns to music for healing
Two days after the official death notification,
Sergeant First Class Forrest Kim Williams sat down and wrote a song --
a tribute to the life of a soldier and a brother.
Williams said information seemed to come slowly over the next several days as rescue workers sifted through the debris and others worked to identify those taken to area hospitals. On September 21 official word came of his brotherís death and the grieving process began. Williams turned to music to help him cope and express himself.
"That was just something I wanted to do to show my sister-in-law and his kids how much I loved my brother," he said. "We were pretty close." Music has always been a part of the Williamsí family and he said they have always used it as an outlet. However, he said this time itís different because the loss his family suffered seems unjust. "The way this happened to all the people involved, you just feel cheated. I do anyway. I feel cheated," Williams said.
Because of those feelings, finding the words to put down on paper was a challenge as he tried to capture his brother's life. "It was kind of hard to write. I just looked at his life and our life as a whole," Williams said. "I wanted to just put all 38 years that I knew him into words to show the type of person he was."
September 11th, 2002, Williams performed the
song live on FOX News in his hometown of Jacksonville, Alabama, where the
first ever monument was built to honor a victim of the September 11th Terrorists
attacks. A monument was erected in memory of Army Major Dwayne Williams
and the Pentagon victims. Later that night in front of a crowd of 5,000,
Kim Williams performed the song again at the Birmingham Salute to Heroes
concert at the Boutwell City Auditorium in Birmingham, Alabama.
A caisson with the flag-draped casket for Army Major Dwayne Williams is
escorted through Arlington National Cemetary in Arlington, Virginia,
Saturday, Oct. 13, 2001.
NOTE: Major Williams was laid to rest in Section 64 of Arlington National Cemetery, in the shadows of the Pentagon.
Photo By M. R. Patterson, 27 June 2003