Hundreds of supporters attend
Missouri City partnered with Stafford recently to pay tribute to the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and to honor the selfless firefighters, police officers and military personnel who defended the nation on and after that fateful day.
During the solemn commemoration on Protector’s Plaza at Public Safety Headquarters, about 100 people gathered on a clear Sunday morning to salute the fallen, show their support for the cities’ Fire and Police Departments and to hear Patriot Day remarks from local, state and national officials.
Fire trucks from Missouri City and Stafford extended their ladders to form a platform that displayed Old Glory high above the crowd as a reminder of how the nation came together 10 years ago when terrorists hijacked four U.S. planes—two were crashed into the World Trade Center towers, one into a Pentagon building in Washington, D.C., and heroic passengers and crew took control of the fourth plane crashing it into a Pennsylvania field and preventing an attack on the U.S. Capitol building.
The Missouri City Police Department Honor Guard presented the colors as a firefighter rang a bell to mark the sacrifice of firefighters who rushed into the Twin Towers to save those trapped inside the burning structures.
Chief Russell Sander shared the significance of ringing the bell: “The tolling of the bell is a long tradition. When a firefighter was killed in the line of duty, a special signal would be tapped out—five measured dashes, pause, five measured dashes, followed by another pause, and five measured dashes. All the station houses in the area could hear the sign of honor and respect for firefighters who made the ultimate sacrifice.”
Sander also recognized the firefighters who lost their lives on 9/11 and emphasized the dedication of the profession: “We aspire to come to the aid of others when no one else will. A word that is often used in the fire service is honor. It means respect or esteem. Today we gather to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice on that horrible day.”
Mayor Allen Owen read a proclamation honoring the nearly 3,000 people who died on Sept. 11, 2001. He told the audience: “It’s fitting that we are here this morning at this plaza and standing here at a statue called the protector because that’s exactly what many of those people who lost their lives were doing that day. Not taking their own lives into consideration but trying to save as many people as they could by rushing into the burning buildings into harm’s way.”
State Rep. Ron Reynolds also read a proclamation from the State Legislature, and presented a flag that had been flown over the Texas Capitol in Austin to Mayor Owen and Fire Chief Russell Sander and Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald. “This is in memory of those who gave their lives—firefighters, police officers, emergency medical responders—and those ordinary citizens such as you who gave a little extra and made an extraordinary sacrifice for our country to come together,” Reynolds told the audience.
Congressman Al Green told the supporters that everyone is given “a watch” on this Earth. He went on to explain that the passengers on flight 93 overtook the hijackers when it was “their watch”, and added “a nation will be eternally grateful” for their actions.
Congressman Pete Olson recounted the day 10 years ago when he was driving to work at the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C., where he worked for former U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm. According to Olson, he, like many others, didn’t realize the nation was under attack until he heard about the second plane that crashed into the second tower in New York. Olson also paid tribute to the passengers onboard Flight 93.
“When their plane got hijacked, they went ‘Texan’,” he said. “They tried to storm the cockpit and nobody knew what went on in there, but we do know the plane did not make it to its destination, the U.S. Capitol.”
And, Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald reminded the supporters about how the nation came together on 9/11. “For just one day, set aside your differences, set aside the squabbles, and substitute that for the sense of patriotism we all knew on that fateful day in September, 2001. Ten years later, we have gotten back to normal but that’s the same normal that makes us one, that same normal that makes us a great nation.”
After a 21-gun salute, the Honor Guard retired the colors.
In a separate commemoration later in day, about 150 people turned out for a ceremony held by the Missouri City VFW Post 4010 & Ladies Auxiliary and the VFW Motorcycle Group Unit 1. The organization’s tribute honored the firefighters, police officers, military personnel and citizens who sacrificed their lives to protect the nation ten years ago. They also paid tribute to military personnel who have served overseas in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Dulles High School JROTC presented the colors, Mayor Allen Owen presented the VFW Post with a City Proclamation and State Rep. Ron Reynolds presented a State Proclamation to recognize the firefighters, police officers and others who gave their lives in the terrorist attacks. Congressman Pete Olson, Chief Joel Fitzgerald and Chief Russell Sander also addressed the assembly of veterans and their families, public safety officials and residents in attendance.
At left, a supporter tears up during the Missouri City 9/11 ceremony. At right, dozens of veterans, families, public safety officials and residents attend a solemn commemoration at VFW Post 4010.