9/11 remembered: Local leaders honor the losses of 9/11 at ceremony, 20 years later
For a few minutes, area residents forgot boundaries, barriers and divides and came together Saturday morning to honor the memories of those who lost their lives 20 years ago in the coordinated terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. A memorial service was held at the Grayson County Courthouse to honor those who died that day, include hundreds of first responders who died in the line of duty.
The memorial replaced the annual Sept. 11 program that has been held at Simmons Bank for the past 11 years. Instead, first responders and community members gathered on the steps of the courthouse for 45 minutes of thought and reflection on a day that changed the lives of many Americans.
"It is a natural human response to run away from danger. When God made us, he put something in us that says go the other way when there is something dangerous around the corner. It is an instinct that helps keep us alive," Simmons Bank Senior Vice President Mike WIlliams said. "These first responders have an instinct to run toward danger, to run toward a burning building or toward gunfire because there is someone who needs help. "
On this day, 20 years ago, 2,977 people died during four attacks on American landmarks using hijacked commercial airliners. Terrorists connected with Al-Qaeda hijacked American aircraft and flew them into both towers of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. A fourth aircraft crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania in what is believe to have been a failed attack.
Of the casualties, more than 400 were first responders.
Denison Mayor Janet Gott said the memories of that day remain fresh not only in her mind but those of many other Americans. To this day, she said she can still close her eyes and remember where she was when she heard the news of the attacks.
"There are moments in time when time simply stands still," she said. "We cannot forget and we will always remember where we were and how we felt.
"For the Greatest Generation, that may have been May 8, 1945 — VE Day, when the war with Germany ended. For Baby Boomers it may have been Nov. 22, 1963 when John F. Kennedy was assassinated, but across all generations, from the Greatest Generation to Millennials, it is Sept. 11, 2001, when time stood still, and we watched those two planes hit the towers. Our nation was under attack."
In the days that followed, America took its grief and turned it into purpose and unity as traditional divides were dropped and people came together as Americans, Gott said.
Sherman Mayor David Plyler noted that the costs of the attacks went beyond those who died that day. More than 7,000 soldiers died in the missions in Iraq and Afghanistan as a part of the War on Terror.
This cost has come back into focus in recent days as the war in Afghanistan has come to a close.
The war on terror cost thousands more lives in the last two decades and so many American families had to pay the price yet again to secure our country's safety," he said.
The themes of sacrifice and service took an additional meaning for members of the Grayson County Sheriff's Office, who suffered their own loss this week when Deputy Dusty Wainscott died in the line of duty.
In honor of Wainscott, the Sheriff's Office held a 29-second moment of silence.