In a solemn ceremony timed to the horrific events of 9/11, area law enforcement and first responders joined Porter Early College High School JROTC cadets and community members Wednesday morning to pay tribute to the thousands of people who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks 18 years ago on Sept. 11.
That day at 8:45 a.m. in New York the first of two hijacked airliners crashed into the World Trade Center North Tower. A second jet crashed into the South Tower at 9:03 a.m. and a third struck the Pentagon at 9:43 a.m. A fourth plane crashed into a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, during an attempt by passengers and crew to regain control. The official death toll is 2,977 including the 19 terrorists that hijacked the planes.
“We will never forget the horror of these tragedies and our fallen brothers and sisters,” Battalion Cmdr. Cadet Lt. Col. Alexandra Zamorano said to those in attendance. “As Americans we stand together in the war on terror. We must not allow fear to put our liberties, our freedom, and our ability to stand together as Americans in disarray. Let us on this day bridge the gap of our differences and find our common bond in humanity. … Let us on this day remember that together we can survive and together we will stand.”
Brownsville Police Chief Felix Sauceda, the event keynote speaker, noted that more than 3,000 children lost at least one parent in the attacks. Hundreds of first responders and law enforcement personnel lost their lives rescuing survivors.
“The fibers that we were built on were torn and we were left to rebuild. …That day changed us forever,” but today “we stand together as a nation, as a community, like never before,” Sauceda said.
After 9/11 the Department of Homeland Security was created, as was the Transportation Safety Administration to enforce security at the airports. The former Immigration and Naturalization Service was combined into a new department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement or ICE. Congress passed the Patriot Act and Sept. 11 became Patriot Day to commemorate the tragedy.
As the American flag was raised a Porter student sang the national anthem. Then to close the ceremony the flag was lowered to half staff and a trumpeter from the Porter Cowboy Band played “Taps.”
Maj. Tiburcio Mancias, the senior U.S. Army instructor at Porter who leads the JROTC program, said cadets planned the remembrance as part of class work leading up to the 9/11 anniversary. He noted that none of them had yet been born when the tragedy occurred.
“It’s important that we never forget what happened,” he said.