Rita Cook

guest Columnist

Just minutes before the 9/11 ceremony was to begin at Uptown Village in Cedar Hill this past Sunday an eerie reminder of that day 10 years ago struck me as I looked up at a large American flag blowing in the wind at the entrance to the outdoor mall while an airplane flew by on its flight path to land at DFW Airport.

That wouldn’t have happened Sept. 11, 2001, at 1 p.m. central standard time: All airplanes had been grounded and America’s airspace had been shut down.

It was a grim reminder for me, that airplane.

I remember that I lived near Burbank Airport in 2001 and the silence that ensued with no planes in the sky was a silence of sadness that had engulfed our nation.

However, that airplane this past Sunday was also a reminder that America is resilient with an honor that I feel every time I offer the pledge of allegiance to the American flag and re-enter this country after traveling abroad.

There is nowhere better to be than America. Period.

Another reminder of that honor and pride was during the 9/11 ceremony Sunday, which began with Cedar Hill firefighters and police officers walking in a procession ahead of fire trucks and police vehicles from not only Cedar Hill, but nine other cities in the area including Glenn Heights, Ovilla, DeSoto, Midlothian, Red Oak, Duncanville, Waxahachie, Ferris and Lancaster.

It was a reminder that just as all these cities came together Sunday, our nation came together during the horrible aftermath in 2001 to stand together and be united.

“The Ovilla Police Department is honored to be one of the agencies invited to participate in the 9/11 ceremony in Cedar Hill on Sept. 11, 2011,” Ovilla Chief of Police Mike Moon told me. “The 10th anniversary of this tragic event is monumental and should be recognized every year on that date so that Americans never forget the tragedy and the many firemen, policemen and civilians lives that were lost on this historic date.”

Tragedy indeed, as those in attendance at Uptown Village remembered what they were doing on that day at that time: 8:46 a.m. East Coast time when the first airplane struck the World Trade Center’s North Tower. That was followed by 9:03 a.m. when the South Tower was struck, 9:59 a.m. when the South Tower collapsed and 10:28 a.m. when the North Tower collapsed as well.

Later that day and over the course of the tragedy there were 2,977 people from 93 different countries around the world that lost their lives. Many people, like me, can only remember sitting stunned while watching the events unfold on television, of feeling helpless and speechless. Most of us also innately knew that we were witnessing one of the most horrific events we’d ever witness in our lifetime.

In watching as the people jumped from the towers, one could only imagine what made those people do that. We watched as the folks in the tower windows, in windows way too high to be rescued, perhaps still hoping, as they waved white rags or just bunched up in those windows looking out and waiting for help that would never come. There was the final horror of the South Tower and then the North Tower coming down, the end.

It was the moment too that the United States of America no longer watched and listened to terrorism on foreign soil. It was terrorism on our own soil and we would never be the same again.

That day, on Sept. 11, 2001, did change the way Americans live our lives and now, 10 years later, we can see and feel those changes in so many ways both subtle and profound, but we still stand for that honor and dignity just as we did in 2001.

At Sunday’s ceremony Cedar Hill Mayor Pro Tem Daniel Haydin opened the ceremony by asking, “What is appropriate to say?”

How many people remember what they were thinking and doing on that day at that time in the morning?

“All Americans should never forget the horrific event that changed the world that day,” Haydin said as he remembered all of the heroes who stepped into action that day and the safety personnel, many who lost their lives trying to save other lives.

Cedar Hill author and speaker Carlton Stowers took his turn at the podium to speak of America.

“Our strength is as unparalleled as our resolve,” he said, also remembering his thinking of that “vicious anger against America” and his own “absolute overdose of the dark side.”

Stowers said he, like many Americans, did find hope though, he in his granddaughter, who during Sunday’s ceremony came to stand by his side at the end of his speech when he said, “She and all like her are why we heal.”

As part of Sunday’s ceremony, honor guards were on hand along with a 21-gun salute in remembrance. The national anthem was sung and “Taps” was played. “Amazing Grace” was played on the bagpipes and finally there was the ringing of the bell.

It was a reminder for me that indeed, we as Americans, we might heal, but we will never forget those people who lost their lives that day.

Rita Cook is a freelance journalist and a frequent contributor to the Daily Light.