Twenty years after an event that shook the world and jolted the nation, community members gathered at the Live Oak County Courthouse to remember those Americans who died during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the resulting war on terror.
Members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6119 and American Legion Post 413 helped lead the event, which included a tolling of the bells marking the 20-year anniversary of the attack, a wreath laying ceremony and lowering the flag to half staff.
During the opening prayer, Kevin Mackey, chaplain of the local VFW post, said he was thankful for the heroes that gave their lives as a result of the attacks during the emergency rescue response and the fight against terrorists, and for the families who lost loved ones. He noted the attacks fanned the flames of patriotism and united Americans against a common enemy that was dedicated to America’s destruction.
In addition to veterans, volunteer firefighters, police officers, representatives of the sheriff’s office and other local officials attended the event.
Mark Dobbins, commander of VFW Post 6119, said he was seated in the jury room upstairs in the Live Oak County Courthouse on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, when County Judge Jim Huff announced that court that day was cancelled because of the attacks.
“Ironically, the case before the court that day involved domestic terrorism, and the defendant pled guilty,” Dobbins said.
Huff thanked the VFW and American Legion for their role in the ceremony as well as all they do for the county, and spoke about the importance of remembering 9/11.
“This is a very important day we’ll never forget,” he said. “For those who were not born yet (when the attacks occurred), we have the responsibility to teach them the significance of that day.
“The U.S. has now left Afghanistan (where the terrorist coordinating the 9/11 attacks had been based) and it seems this country is on a dark and threatening path. We have seen fires, COVID, riots and the border crisis and many issues arise that we never thought were issues.
“One thing that has not changed since then is the American spirit of helping others. You saw that with the first-responders on 9/11 and you see it continue today, bringing to the forefront their role in keeping the country safe. ... No words can ever convey the rich gratitude or respect they deserve. May God bless this country, the great state of Texas and may God bless all of you.”
George West Mayor Andrew Garza gave a recap of the events of 9/11, including a timeline of when the planes crashed into the two towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and in a field in Pennsylvania where those battling the terrorists helped divert a fourth plane from hitting another target.
“Lo and behold the assailants didn’t realize the reckoning force they had stirred,” Garza said. “They did not understand the liberty and justice that would rain down on them. They could not understand how our great nation could go from devastation to preservation by unifying and preserving our pledge of ‘one nation under God.’
“They will never comprehend the concept of just like our fathers and their fathers before them, we were able to overcome all obstacles and ensure the sanctity of life in this great nation. They will never grasp the fact that they could not and never will break the American spirit of the land of the free and the home of the brave. Former United States Secretary of State Colin Powell made the statement on 9/11, ‘You can be sure that the American spirit will prevail over this tragedy.’”
Sheriff Larry Busby, then in his 20th year holding that office, recalled the uncertainty and the threats of 9/11, and working to help secure the safety of the area.
“I was well aware we are only two counties removed from the border, have a major refinery and two lakes to protect,” he said. “I knew our first-responders would have the responsibility of confronting any harmful activity that would take place in our area. We were a nation under siege. As Americans always do, we rallied around our military, firefighters, police and EMS.
“In Live Oak County, we are fortunate to still have the support of our citizens. That is important, because without that support we cannot effectively do our civic duties.”
Dobbins said the country has changed in many ways over the past 20 years, but that the stand against the terrorists continues.
“Never forget how it started,” he said. “If the country ever forgets or lets down its guard, it will happen again.”
Katie Mackey, who was 4 on Sept. 11, 2001, wrote a poem on the 20th anniversary of the event that she titled, “The Lost and the Forgotten.”
“Have you forgotten me;
I’m the one who was at work;
I’m the one doing my job;
I’m the one who risked my life so a fourth attack wouldn’t happen;
I’m the one who volunteered to save people;
I’m the one who worked to help people get out safe;
I’m the one that inspired a war;
Have you forgotten about us, the 2,996 of us;
I’m just a child heading on a trip;
I’m a worker;
Never forget about us;
Never forget 9/11.”