Local leaders, first responders and members of the community came together Friday to remember the lives lost and sacrifices made 19 years ago during the attack of Sept. 11, 2001.


Simmons Bank in Sherman held its 10th annual Patriot Day ceremonies, marking one of the darkest days in modern American history when nearly 3,000 people died during terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and an additional failed attack in Pennsylvania.


"Once again it is encouraging to see the community come together to pay tribute to those who lost their lives 19 years ago, honor those who responded and thank the men and women that continue to unite in service to defend this great nation," Simmons Bank Sherman President Will Rasor said.


Friday’s festivities included a flag raising ceremony in which the U.S. flag was place at half-staff. Members of the Sherman High School Band and Sherman Fire-Rescue Pipe Band performed, and the event was capped off by speeches by Sherman Mayor David Plyler and State Rep. Reggie Smith.


Both speeches focused on the lives that were lost that day 19 years ago and the lessons that came in the aftermath.


"I think it is absolutely vital that we reflect on the life-changing events of September 11 for several reasons," Pyler drew parallels to the COVID-19 pandemic. "After the initial dust had settled on that fateful morning nearly two decades ago, Americans tapped into our greatest resource to defeat the enemy — and that resource is patriotism."


In the days that followed, Plyler said the country came together in a way that has seldom been seen as individuals united in grief and a desire to move forward.


People paid respect to first responders and service members who would continue the fight on terrorism for years to follow.


"Our country emerged again as a shining city on the hill for all the world to see," Plyler said.


For his part, Smith said the events of 9/11 will forever be a part of the collective consciousness of everyone who was alive that day. Like previous events that shaped the world, Smith said everyone has a memory of that day.


"Some of us may remember where we were when we heard President Kennedy was killed," Smith said. "You may remember when President Reagan was shot, or the space shuttle exploded. These are events stamped in our collective memories. Another one of those moments occurred on a Tuesday morning 19 years ago today.


"I can’t tell you exactly what I had for breakfast yesterday, but I do remember that morning."


Smith said he was driving his jeep to a mechanic to get a transmission fixed — something he described as normal life — when he heard the news.


"Over the radio I heard the news that changed our world and our lives forever," he said. "All that day all of us were brutally reminded that there are forces outside and in fact inside our borders that want to attack us for our very identity."


While many things were lost that day, Smith said the country gained a renewed purpose, unity and togetherness that day and the days that followed.


"Though many lives were tragically lost and changed that fateful day, I am proud to reflect on that time, on the unity and solidarity we exhibited," he said.


Smith encouraged the community to return to the mindset that Americans exhibited following the attack. It is by coming together as a country, undivided by differences in ideology, that American is at its strongest.


"On Sept. 11, we lost so much. It was a tragedy that struck at the heart of the nation, but it reminded us that we have a heart and that E Pluribus Unum is not just a motto is is one of our fundamental values," Smith said. "Out of many we are one — one nation, under God."


Michael Hutchins is the local government reporter for the Herald Democrat. He can be reached at mhutchins@heralddemocrat.com.