Lest We Forget: Honoring first responders

MIKE McGEE | 9/17/2014, 11:48 p.m.
Sept. 11 marked the 13th anniversary of the largest terrorist attacks on American soil; one day that changed the direction ...
Members of city and county law enforcement agencies, representatives of Dallas Fire rescue, the Civil Air Patrol and other civic leaders gathered at Southwest Center Mall on Sept. 11 for the Lest We Forget memorial ceremony to mark the 13th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Mike McGee

The Dallas Examiner

Sept. 11 marked the 13th anniversary of the largest terrorist attacks on American soil; one day that changed the direction of the United States and the world. To observe that day and commemorate the lives lost, Southwest Center Mall hosted the “Lest We Forget” Flag Ceremony that morning inside the mall’s central atrium.

Numerous fire rescue, police and sheriff’s department representatives from the county attended the event as well as Oak Cliff area dignitaries. Words of prayer, encouragement and song were offered to memorialize the events that occurred in 2001 and recognize the commitment that law enforcement and EMT personnel make every day. Dallas Fire Chief Louie Bright III was one of those attending who took time out to share his thoughts on the national tragedy.

“One thing about it, we never, ever want to forget, and want to keep alive the memory of everything that went on 9/11,” he stated.

Bright said that he still recalls exactly where he was when reports of the day’s horror started rolling in.

“That’s the type of impact that that event had on all of us,” he said. “I can’t even imagine being there and seeing some of the death and destruction that occurred.”

Orlando Robinson, third vice president of the Black Police Association of Greater Dallas, also let his feelings be known about the momentous date.

“Many firefighters and police officers lost their lives on this great day and how we honor them is by doing our job; is by continuing to show up and serve the community in the capacity that we have,” he expressed.

Bright also mentioned the sacrifices the first responders made at the site of the World Trade Center in New York City more than a decade ago.

“We certainly want to keep in memory all of those that lost their lives that day – 343 firefighters, 13 of those African American, in case you didn’t know. They went in those buildings just doing what they do on a daily basis,” the chief said.

Jerra Williams, commander of the Redbird Civil Air Patrol Squadron, offered an account of the services that civilians provided on that fateful September morning. She informed those in attendance of the organization’s origins as a group of citizens dedicated to monitoring shorelines and assisting in emergency services. The commander noted that, from those beginnings, small civilian aircraft now play a role in search and rescue efforts. Those were exemplified in the help the CAP gave in the days after the terrorist attacks, she affirmed.

“We were the first civilian planes in the air after the downing of the towers to provide photos to help assess the damage and assist any way we could,” Williams said.

She also shared her memory of the events 13 years previous.

“I was at Wal-Mart … One of the ladies said ‘Did you hear? There was a plane that flew into one of the towers.’ And from then I paid attention to what was going on,” she remarked.

The job of the CAP is to train young people to be aware of what was happening around them and be prepared to assist any way needed, she added.

“I want to thank you for being able to share with you in the defense of our country,” Williams concluded as she addressed the men and women of law enforcement seated before her. “Because that’s what we are defending – we are in defense of our country. Sept. 11, similar to WWII, kind of dropped us in the midst of a situation that we were not really prepared for but now we know who our enemies are.”

Williams ended her Lest We Forget reflections, observing “We are prepared to defend our country, and may God bless the United States of America.”