A familiar air of solemn sadness once again permeated over the city as citizens across the Dallas-Fort Worth area braved the threat of bad weather to honor the brave men and women who gave their lives on Sept. 11, 2001.
The McKinney Police and Fire Department hosted their second annual 9/11 memorial at Veterans Memorial Park on Friday, the eighth anniversary of the attack on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center.
Hundreds of citizens across the North Texas area attended the event along with law enforcement and firefighters from several neighboring cities including Dallas, Lewisville, Plano, Corpus Christi, Denton and Prosper. The event also featured officers from much farther away including College Station and Germantown, Tenn.
McKinney Fire Chief Mark Wallace reminded the crowd of the 343 firefighters and 72 police officers who died in the collapse of the Twin Towers along with the thousands of civilians they tried to save. He also reminded them, "Today is not about numbers. It's about people and individuals who serve and protect those people.
"In this place, we have come to honor both," Wallace said. "We are forever in their debt."
McKinney Police Chief Doug Kowalski recalled the event as a personal one since he is a native of New York City and had actually spent some time visiting friends at the World Trade Center just a few days before the attack.
"It was personal for me because I was born and raised in New York City," Kowalski said. "I watched the Twin Towers go up as a boy and I watched them come down in a few moments…People take pause to honor their memory because we rush in when others rush out. It wasn't just police officers and firefighters. It was everyone."
U.S. Congressman Sam Johnson recalled sitting in the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001. He said he was eating breaking with then Secretary of the Air Force John Roche when he heard the first plane crash into a helicopter pad near the building. The second plane hit the Pentagon just as he heading out to his office in the Capitol building.
"What I saw were firefighters responding almost instantly," Johnson said. "They were pulling people out of the building. The Secretary of Defense (Donald Rumsfeld) was pulling people out."
"I never saw a response as fast and as quick as the firefighters in Washington D.C.," he said. "I know the same guys here who protect your lives day in and day out do the same thing. These guys are heroes."
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