Written by Phil Cerroni
Coppell citizens of all ages take time to remember lives lost on a day that changed America
By Sissy Courtney
Reminiscent of the day that forever changed our lives, Sep. 11, 2001, the bright sun shown in a cloudless blue sky as planes flew overhead. On this day, Sep. 11, 2012, moments of silence, were broken by speeches, prayers, bells tolling, bagpipes playing, a 21 gun salute, drums drumming, a trumpet playing Taps, and planes flying overhead in the cloudless blue sky above Town Center Plaza behind Coppell City Hall.
Coppell Police Chief Mac Tristan began his speech with words from President Barack Obama in his 2009 proclamation for Patriot Day: “Through the twisted steel of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, the scarred walls of the Pentagon, smoky wreckage in a field in southwest Pennsylvania, the patriotism, the resiliency of the American people shown brightly on September 11, 2001,” Tristan said quoting Obama. “We stood as one people united in our common humanity and shared sorrow. We grieve for those who perished and remember what brought us together as Americans.”
Those words gave a graphic image of that day 11 years ago to the large crowd that had gathered.
“Sep. 11, 2001, was similar to today with beautiful blue skies,” Tristan said. “The ironic thing about the situation is that it was one of our country’s darkest days.
“Patriot Day occurs on Sep. 11 every year, and it is dedicated to the memory of the nearly 3,000 lives lost on Sep. 11, 2001. The lives of Americans changed that day, and they’ve never been the same since. Communities across this nation are doing the exact same thing we’re doing today here this morning, and that is remembering, honoring the lives lost and those that continue to fight for our freedom today. It is important that we remember and that we honor those that gave the ultimate sacrifice.”
The assembly included first responders, fire and police, city and state officials, ordinary citizens, some holding small children, and an elementary class from Town Center Elementary, children who were born after Sep. 11, 2001.
Todd Martin, who now works for U.S. Congressman Kenny Marchant, was a sophomore in class at Creekview High School in Carrollton that morning.
“I can remember on 9-11 it was dead silent,” Martin said. “There were no planes (flying) right after the plane hit and the days following. It’s an event that shaped the history of my generation.
“We just watched TV all day; the teacher was crying; kids were looking around wondering: ‘Where do we go from here?’ I remember our basketball coach talking to us and telling us that this would change and shape history from this point forward. We were young; we didn’t know what that meant – but it did. Here we are, 11 years later, just getting out of Iraq, and soon we’ll be getting out of Afghanistan.”
John Hayes, who also works for Congressman Marchant, was a pilot 11 years ago.
“It’s important that we remember what happened so we never get in that position again,” Hayes said. “It’s very, very important that we remember what our first responders do for us, and the men and women in uniform that are in harm’s way. I was in uniform; I was a Viet Nam veteran, so I know what it means to have public support, and we do have public support.
“That Friday (after 9-11), I left Pittsburgh as a brand new MD80 Captain, and our second leg was in Newark, and we could look off to the right and see the smoking towers,” Hayes said. “You had to really concentrate on your flying, because after 20 years of seeing those towers there, and then not seeing them, but seeing a bunch of smoking ruins, was a shock.
“Our next leg from Newark to Florida, we flew out around the Pentagon where we saw the smoking ruins on the side of the Pentagon,” Hayes said. “I had a bird’s eye view. That was the first day the planes started flying again. Both the Pentagon and the two towers smoldered for a long, long time. It was very sobering.”
Although she said she was surrounded by family and friends on that day 11 years ago, Coppell Mayor Karen Hunt said she wanted to go home as soon as possible to be with her children, to produce a cocoon around them to keep them safe.
“But you didn’t want to do that either,” Hunt said. “We have a freedom that we have to protect, so you cannot put yourself into a cocoon. You have to do what America did: Step up and fight back and show our patriotism.”