First responders and community members gathered under rainy skies in Sherman Tuesday morning to commemorate the 17th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
The annual memorial service was organized by Landmark Bank and held outside the institution's branch on East Peyton Street. Following a ceremonial raising of the American flag to half staff, Sherman Mayor David Plyler and Sherman Police Chief Zachary Flores stood before the crowd, filled with law enforcement officers and firefighters, and spoke about both the date's significance and the daily efforts of emergency personnel.
“It's incredibly important to remember those we lost and honor their memory,” Plyler said. “And it's also to show support. You know, we can't say enough about our first responders. At the end of every day, they don't know if they're going to be able to go home because of something.”
Nearly 3,000 Americans were killed in the Sept. 11 attacks after hijackers crashed commercial passenger planes into the World Trade Center towers in New York City, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and after flight United 93 crashed outside Shanskville, Pennsylvania. Since 2001, more than 350 first responders have died from 9/11-related illnesses and an estimated 7,500 have been diagnosed with cancer.
“I don't know that people really understand the significance of what they're made to do,” Plyler said of first responders serving across the country. “At any given time, they can run into incredible danger. We just want to always support them and show our appreciation.”
Though 17 years have passed since the largest terror attack on U.S. soil, Sherman Fire-Rescue Chief Danny Jones said the Sept. 11 anniversary is one no public safety agency is able to forget.
“Some of the newscasts that you see, even this morning, as they replayed the things that happened, it just brings back to mind what we were doing at that time and what we're called to do everyday in our community, as public servants,” Jones said.
But rather than be overwhelmed by the scale of the tragedy, Jones said first responders see Sept. 11 as a clear reminder that their work is critical and, in some cases, costly.
“The important thing is that we go out everyday and do our jobs,” Jones said. “And we have to remember that the commitment we've made means we may not go back home.”
Flores said that commitment was worthy of the community's remembrance and respect, especially on Sept. 11.
“The date has grown to serve dual purposes,” Flores said. “One, we recognize the events of that day and two, we recognize the selfless acts of civil servants who will undoubtedly be called upon to perform in the future.”