By Lyndel Moody
Remember, honor and unite as one proud people – those were the themes threaded through the words spoken during a 9/11 memorial service Sunday afternoon at the Big Spring Mall.
“I want people to come away with a feeling of unity, of being an American, the unity of looking after the people who have lost their families, not just on 9/11 but in all the wars since 9/11, and to walk out every day and see flags flying and people being American, not a bunch of scattered around groups,” said Mike Tarpley, a Vietnam veteran who has organized the memorial service for the past five years.
Services to remember victims of the attacks by terrorists on the World Trade Center in New York and the U.S. Pentagon in Arlington, Va., were held all over the nation Sunday. In Big Spring, more than 350 people gathered in the mall at the wall of honor created and maintained by Tarpley to honor local military persons who have died in the war on terror.
Before the event, military flags denoting the branch of service of each person who gave the ultimate sacrifice were draped over the permanently displayed pictures at the memorial. During the ceremony, the flags were undraped to honor St. Conrad Alvarez, U.S. Army; SPC Brandon Long, U.S. Army; Cpt. Ellery Ray Wallace, U.S. Army; Staff Sgt. Clinton Newman; U.S. Army, SPC Robert Volker, U.S. Army; PFC Chad Metcalf, U.S. Marine Corp; PFC Kristian Menchaca, U.S. Army; PFC Clayton Henson, U.S. Army; and civilian contractor Steven Evrard, formerly with the Big Spring Police Department.
“We commemorate the people who lost their lives in the tragedy 10 years ago today,” said Ed Meiser, commander of the DAV Chapter 47 and a Vietnam veteran. “We honor the many Americans who responded on that day. And we salute those who have served in harm’s way over the past years. Now a decade later, we still have troops protecting the country, fighting terrorism abroad. As a nation we must continue to do everything we can to support our soldiers, sailors, airman, Marines, coastguardsmen as they continue their efforts against terrorism.
“And what better way to show your support than fly the American flag every day of the year or at the least every day you can. What a beautiful sight — Old Glory flying in the breeze, the fabric of our country. In the days, weeks and months immediately following 9/11, our country was bathed in American Flags as citizens mourned the incredible losses and stood united, shoulder-to-shoulder in a show of patriotism across our great nation. Sadly those flags have all but disappeared.”
Meiser began his speech by recalling a statement made by then U.S. President George W. Bush when he spoke at the United Nations two months after the attack.“Time is passing. Yet, for the United States of America, there will be no forgetting September the 11th. We will remember every rescuer who died in honor. We will remember every family that lives in grief. We will remember the fire and ash, the last phone calls, the funerals of the children.”
Meiser said as time passes, it is imperative for all Americans to remember what happened on that day, the victims, their families, all who have lost their lives since in the war on terror “so we as a country can learn and move on into the future as a nation united,” and support those who continue the fight so “we as a people can enjoy the freedoms that we cherish today.”
“But as I stated before, what better way of showing our support than flying our American flag in a never ending wave of patriotism for all our men and women who are continuing to show bravery for their country every day,” Meiser said. “By everyone flying Old Glory consistently, we are showing the world that while we may have stumbled, we have gotten back up and we are still living. We will continue to live for what we believe in and that is the right of freedom for everyone. Thousands of our Americans have sacrificed their lives in hopes that we may live our lives in peace. Please continue to fly the American flag, Old Glory, the fabric of our country, with pride in wave of never ending patriotism.”
Most people will remember Sept. 11, 2001, when they learned America was under attack, said U.S. Rep Randy Neugebauer, R-TX, 19th Congressional District.
“I know the last few days a lot of the news agencies have been running that old footage over and over again,” Neugebauer said. “I don’t know about you, but it is still hard for me to believe that that it happened in our country. It was a bad day; it was a hard day… it was a day full of emotions. On that same day, we got to witness heroes as we watched our first-responders try and go and minimize the causalities in that terrible event. As people were rushing out of the buildings, our first responders were rushing in the building.
“I think one of the things that was a good thing that came from 9/11 was that America had the opportunity to gain a new appreciation for men and women who wear a little bit different uniform every day on our behalf and that’s the people who are our police officers and our firefighters and our EMS people and all those people who we count on, on a daily basis, that makes all our lives a little bit easier, keep us a little safer, that keep our property a little safer.”
Referring to Meiser’s speech, Neugebauer said that getting knocked down was a good analogy to describe that day.
‘When you think about a professional fighter, you know it is always important for the fighter to keep his guard up because you don’t want that lucky punch to take you out,” the congressman said. “What happen on 9/11 is we had our guard down just a little bit on that day, and we had a punch, and it knocked us down, but it didn’t knock us out, and America came back. We got back up on our feet really with a new amount of energy and dedication, both to come back from this in a strong way. We were not going to let these thugs and terrorists destroy the American values and the American way of life. We got back up, and we said you know what, we won’t let that happen again and so subsequent to that I am very proud of our military and our intelligence community, our law enforcement — all of the people around the country that we depend on that do a great job of keeping America safe. So they may have knocked down our buildings, but they didn’t knock down America.”
Rick Cunningham, minister of 14th and main Church of Christ and a Vietnam veteran, was the main speaker of the event, and he gave a detailed overview of the day’s events when 19 terrorists highjacked four commercial jet planes in a coordinated, suicide attack. They crashed two planes into the World Trade Center and one into the Pentagon. The fourth, Flight 93, thought to have been aiming for the U.S. Capital Building or the White House, crashed in a field nearby Shanksville, Pennsylvania, after passengers regained control of the plane.
“Nearly 3,000 victims and 19 highjackers died in the attacks. Among the 2,753 victims who died in the World Trade Center were 343 firefighters, 60 police officers from New York City and the Port Authority and eight private emergency medical technicians and paramedics. Another 184 people were killed in the attack of the Pentagon; there were no survivors from any of the flights. The overwhelming majority of the causalities were civilians, including nationals from over 70 countries.”
The attacks caused serious economic damage, and the United States quickly launched the war on terror in response.
“The damage to the Pentagon was cleared and repaired within a year and the Pentagon memorial was built adjacent to the building,” Cunningham said. “The rebuilding of the World Trade Center site began in 2002. Ground was broken for Flight 93 national memorial on Nov. 8, 2009 and a memorial was dedicated on Sept. 10, 2011. “
Since that day, the U.S. has lost 4,700 soldiers to the fight against terror and one million of the enemy has been killed, Cunningham said, adding, “yet the job still goes on.”
“What impact has 9/11 had on us as citizens in our country?” Cunningham asked. “There are really two possibilities. The first is terrorism. We could be filled with terror. Terrorism is intended to cause the demoralization, intimidation and subjugation of a civilization. The other possibility is patriotism, which is love of all and loyal, zealous support of our own country. And that seems to be the better choice. We are here today, not as terrorized people. Terrorists misunderstand us. We are a patriotic people. This is a nation of patriots. We love our country. We are loyal, zealous supporters of our country, and we refused to be terrorized.”
America has soldiered through a number of difficult attacks with a patriotic response, Cunningham said, listing several key events in the country's history, from the golden age of piracy when American colonies were still a part of the British Empire, the War of 1812 and the ransacking of Washington, D.C. by British troops, ending with the assassination of U.S. Present William McKinley in 1901.
“9/11 is not the first time these things have happened, but we need to remember all of these events, the things of history, the things closest to us and the things far away,” Cunningham said. “Ecclesiastes, Chapter, 1; verses 9 and10, wise King Solomon wrote, 'What has been will be again. What has been done will be done again. There is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which one can say look this is something new. It was already here long ago. It was here before our time.'
“America has faced many enemies — terrorists, anarchists, imperialists, communists, assassins and fanatics of all kinds, and we tend to remember they are surprise attacks, but we are not demoralized or intimidated or subjected. As patriots, we love our country and we will be loyal and zealous in support of our country, so I say what has already been said, may God bless America.”