Central Texas marks 18th anniversary of 9/11 attacks
Throughout Central Texas Wednesday, residents marked the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks that claimed the lives of nearly 3,000 in what remains the single-worst day of terrorism in the U.S.
Many of the observances were scheduled to coincide with the time American Airlines Flight 11 hit the World Trade Center’s North Tower at 8:46 a.m. on Sept. 11, 2001.
Less than 20 minutes later, at 9:03 a.m., United Airlines Flight 175 slammed into the South Tower and at 9:37 a.m., American Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon.
The fourth hijacked plane, United Airlines Flight 93, was also destined for Washington, but passengers attacked the hijackers, who crashed the aircraft into a field near Shanksville, Pa.
In New York City, victims' relatives assembled Wednesday at ground zero, where the observance began with a moment of silence and the tolling of bells at 8:46 a.m.
In Belton Wednesday, there was a moment of silence, followed by the playing of "Amazing Grace" by Belton Fire Department Lt. Joshua Isbell.
Each elementary school held a different commemorative event from remembrance walks to writing cards to first responders.
Retired New York City Fire Department Lt. Joe Torrilo, who was about an eighth of a mile away from the World Trade Center when American Airlines Flight 11 struck the North Tower at 8:46 a.m. on Sept. 11, 2001, spoke to University of Mary Hardin-Baylor students Wednesday morning.
He rushed to provide assistance and was there when the south tower was struck and less than an hour later ended up buried in debris as the south tower collapsed.
He was rescued, but then was buried a second time when the north tower collapsed.
He recovered from severe injuries, and now travels the world as a profession speaker whose goal is to make the country the “Re-United States of America.”
Fort Hood troops played a key role in the war on terrorism after the 9/11 attacks and a central role in the war in Iraq where 4th Infantry Division soldiers captured Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein in December 2003. First Cavalry Division troops fought in such major campaigns as the Battle of Fallujah in 2004 and were part of the surge of troops ultimately credited with turning the tide in the war.
Thousands of soldiers from the post deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, and hundreds died.
“Today we continue to honor the memory of those lost, and the sacrifice of the patriots and their families that have paid the ultimate price in defense of the values we hold dear as Americans,” post commander Lt. Gen. Robert P. White and Command Sgt. Maj. Daniel T. Hendrex wrote Wednesday in a letter to the soldiers, families and communities of Fort Hood’s III Corps.
“Despite 18 years of war, our world remains a complex and dangerous place,” they wrote.
“We have not forgotten, and will never forget.”
The Killeen ISD held its annual Freedom Walk Wednesday at Leo Buckley Stadium and there was a commemorative event at Killeen High School where local police officers, firefighters, military personnel and other first responders were honored.
H-E-B marked the day by hosting a lunch at Fort Hood’s Fire Station No. 1 for firefighters from seven post fire stations as well as the post’s military police officers.
“The Helping Heroes program provides an opportunity for H-E-B Partners to support their communities and thank the first responders who dedicate their lives to keeping our communities safe,” H-E-B said.
“This program commemorates September 11 as a National Day of Service and Remembrance, paying tribute to the emergency personnel who risked and lost their lives during the World Trade Center attack.”
Temple Fire & Rescue personnel marked the anniversary with a memorial service Wednesday.
In the weeks and months after the Sept. 1, 2001 attacks, there were constant reminders of how much had changed so quickly as then President George W. Bush traveled to his ranch outside of Crawford, followed by a gaggle of national media and protected by U.S. troops on the ground and fighter jets in the air that made frequent passes over the area, sometimes at supersonic speeds.
In August 2005, anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan, whose son Spc. Casey Sheehan, a Fort Hood soldier, died in action in April 2004 in Sadr City, set up camp outside of Crawford, attracting hundreds of supporters and international attention.
On Wednesday, Waco firefighters gathered at 8:45 a.m. outside each Waco fire station where they observed a moment of silence in honor of the 343 firefighters who died 18 years ago when the Trade Center towers collapsed.
The firefighting apparatus at each station was pulled outside and parked with emergency lights flashing.
U.S. Rep. Charles “Doc” Anderson, R-Waco, joined firefighters at Fire Station No. 1.
In Lacy Lakeview, an observance was held Wednesday morning at Veterans Park honoring those who died 18 years ago.
The U.S. flag was lowered to half-staff at dawn.
Hewitt police, in a Facebook post, said, “18 years ago today, Americans saw the worst and responded with the best of us. We honor those that lost their lives that horrific day. We also honor the brave men and women who sacrificed everything to save the lives of strangers. #NeverForget”