Veterans Day 2021

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Brother of 9/11 Victim:
“Honor Veterans Whose Sacrifices Help Keep Us Free”

By Katie Holmes, AmeriCorps Member, Black Warrior Riverkeeper

In partnership with AmeriCorps, Black Warrior Riverkeeper is honoring veterans on Veterans Day by publishing an interview with Black Warrior Riverkeeper board of directors member Roy Williams, whose brother lost his life on September 11, 2001. Army Major Dwayne Williams was one of the 125 people who perished inside the Pentagon on that terrible morning.

Roy and Dwayne Williams grew up with their other siblings in Jacksonville, Alabama. Roy spent 25 years as a newspaper journalist, including nearly 23 years at the Birmingham News. Roy was working there as a reporter the morning of September 11, 2001, when he received the news that the Pentagon, where Dwayne worked, had been attacked. We publish this interview with the intention of honoring the service of our veterans, remembering those who are no longer with us, and emphasizing the significance of civic responsibility and service.

We are so sorry your brother, Dwayne Williams, Major, United States Army, was killed at the Pentagon in the September 11 terrorist attacks. 20 years later, what message would you like to convey to readers?

The message I wish to convey as we celebrate Veterans Day 2021 is the same that I issued during the 20th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks: A plea to our nation to honor the sacrifices made by our veterans and current military personnel by putting aside political differences and arguments over COVID-19 vaccines and mask mandates by uniting as one nation under God. Immediately after 9/11 occurred 20 years ago, a vast majority of the United States put aside racial divides and politics and united to support families of the victims of September 11.

We honored the heroes of 9/11 by proudly waving American flags and saying God Bless America. We did not see each other as black or white, Republicans and Democrats, but as people united as a nation under the colors of our flag – red, white and blue. Just as for one weekend on the 20th anniversary of 9/11 in mid-September people across the country united to honor the memories of my brother and other victims, let’s spend this Veterans Day 2021 in the spirit of harmony and togetherness to honor the veterans whose sacrifices and shed blood over generations of wars provided the freedoms that too many people take for granted.   

I also want to convey a message that is widespread in my memoir, 911 God Help Us – A Journalist’s Tale of Faith. No matter what challenges we face, leaning on God can bring you through it. That is what allows me 20 years after losing my brother Dwayne in such a horrific way in the 9/11 terrorist attack on the Pentagon, I can keep a smile on my face and focus on good memories, not just the tragedy.  

On Veterans Day, how does it feel to be part of a family with so many past and present members of the military?

I am proud to be a part of the Williams family, and the sibling of three brothers who proudly served in the U.S. Air Force (my identical twin Troy), and U.S. Army (my older brother Kim, who retired after 20 years in the military, and Dwayne, who made the ultimate sacrifice in the 911 attack on the Pentagon after 18 years in the army). My brothers Dwayne and Kim both served in the Persian Gulf War in Iraq in 1991, with Dwayne leading troops as a commander in the field. In addition, I have had uncles and cousins serve in the U.S. military for generations from the Vietnam War through the Persian Gulf War, with many still proudly serving our nation today.

You have served your communities in a number of professional and volunteer positions. Why did you decide to add a volunteer leadership role as a Black Warrior Riverkeeper board member?

I feel an obligation to give back to the community of metro Birmingham which has supported my family despite many who do not know us personally over the past 20 years since word got out that we lost my brother Dwayne in the Pentagon terrorist attack. I have a passion for protecting our environment, so was honored when asked to serve on the board of the Black Warrior Riverkeeper this year.

I love mentoring and helping the next generation, especially young black boys and teens who lack positive role models, which is why I’ve been a member of the 100 Black Men of Metro Birmingham the past two years. I am also passionate about how libraries can uplift our communities which is why as a former radio show host (Biz Talk with Roy Williams) and PR director at the Birmingham Public Library for 6 years, I accepted an invitation to serve as a board member of Raise Up Radio, a new project that aims to address community needs through partnering with libraries to host rural radio programs in Alabama and Texas.      

To learn more about serving your community through Black Warrior Riverkeeper’s volunteer projects, visit

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