Runnels County observance of 9/11

Bill Hancock
Runnels County Register
The north face of Two World Trade Center (south tower) immediately after being struck by United Airlines Flight 175

RUNNELS COUNTY - On Saturday, September 11, at 10 a.m., Runnels County will hold a remembrance event for 9/11.

County judge Julia Miller spoke about the event, "We do not want 9/11 to come and go and it not be acknowledged so we're putting together a program to honor those that lost their lives and the heroic efforts of firefighters, law enforcement, hospital workers, etc."

Retired County Judge Barry Hilliard

Miller says that the idea started with her predecessor, retired County Judge Barry Hilliard, "I have been thinking about this for quite some time but wasn’t sure how to go about putting something like this together. Recently, our previous county judge, Barry Hilliard, mentioned to me that he had spoken with Dr. J. Lynn Lawhon months ago regarding his participation as a speaker at a 9/11 event. Judge Hilliard said that Dr. Lawhon had expressed an interest in speaking at the ceremony if we were to have one. I contacted Dr. Lawhon and he said that he was available and would be honored to be our speaker. That got the ball rolling. I mentioned it to our county commissioners and other county officials and everyone is very supportive of the idea."

Runnels County Judge Julia Miller (left) is spearheading a Runnels County 9/11 remembrance day. Miller says that recently retired County Judge Barry Hilliard (right) started the wheels in motion for the event. The ceremony is scheduled for Saturday, September 11, at 10:00 on the Runnels County Courthouse lawn.

Miller says that she is lining up an additional speaker for the event, "A man by the name of Todd Sanford was brought up as a possibility for an additional speaker. Mr. Sanford is a retired assistant fire chief from San Angelo and is now a public speaker. He was not present during the 9/11 attacks but did go to New York shortly thereafter and was profoundly moved by his experience. He has agreed to speak at the ceremony as well so that just added to the momentum."

Miller shared some of her personal feelings about 9/11, "I, like many others, can remember exactly where I was when I heard the news of the terrorist attacks. One of my best friends was living in New York at the time and as frightened as I was for her, I could not even imagine the terror that they were going through. It was something that I will never forget."

A New York City fire fighter looks up at what remains of the World Trade Center after its collapse during the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack.

More than simply remembering

According to Miller, the reason for the ceremony is more than simply remembering 9/11, "Our younger generation, even though they were either too young to remember or not yet born, should be aware of what that day was about and how it impacted us all. I would like for them to understand how extraordinary these ordinary people were when faced with utter chaos and devastation. There were heroes from all walks of life ranging from first responders to everyday people. And not only in New York, but those incredibly brave individuals on the American Airline flight going to Pennsylvania and those at the Pentagon. All of those people as well as those that lost their lives should be honored and it is our responsibility to make that happen."

War on Terror

The United States invaded Iraq 18 months after the attacks.

On 20 September 2001, President George W. Bush addressed a joint session of Congress and announced his new "War on Terror". This announcement was accompanied by the doctrine of "preemptive" military action, later termed the Bush Doctrine. Allegations of a connection between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda were made by some U.S. Government officials who asserted that a highly secretive relationship existed between Saddam and the radical Islamist militant organization al-Qaeda from 1992 to 2003, specifically through a series of meetings reportedly involving the Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS).

Ballinger's William Justin Byler died on October 31, 2005 in Iraq while serving in the 101st Airborne Division.

Miller spoke about the sacrifices of service members and that many come from rural areas, "There could never be enough recognition for these young men and women and the sacrifices that they made and continue to make to serve this country. I recently read that approximately 44% of military recruits are from rural areas. So, the contribution from the rural communities is significant and is not to be overlooked. I know there were some from our local area that made the decision to join the military either on September 11, 2001 or shortly thereafter. I’m not sure when Justin Byler enlisted but he was one of many brave individuals that gave the ultimate sacrifice. They all deserve to honored and remembered."

Aerial view of the Pentagon Building located in Washington, District of Columbia (DC), showing emergency crews responding to the destruction caused when a high-jacked commercial jetliner crashed into the southwest corner of the building, during the 9/11 terrorists attacks.

Miller said that he planning for the ceremony is still on-going, "It is really starting to come together. I still have a list of people and organizations to contact but those that I have spoken with are incredibly supportive and have offered help in any way that they can."

Positive response to the plans

According to Miller, the response has been positive from those who she has spoken to about the event, "The response has been amazing. Everyone that I have spoken with is incredibly supportive. Many have given us ideas and suggestions and we are pulling it all together. Our goal is for this event to be something very special in honoring those that lost their lives, first responders, fire fighters, law enforcement, hospital workers, etc and those that entered the service in response to the terrorist attacks on 9/11.

Man covered with ashes assisting a woman walking and holding a particle mask to her face, following the September 11th terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, New York City]

While there will be events all over the state and country, Miller hopes that many will choose to attend the Runnels County remembrance, "We know that there are a number of events happening on the same day, but we hope that Runnels County residents will take the time on September 11th to join us in honoring those that were, and are still, connected to September 11, 2001. And if they can’t join us, we ask that they take time during their otherwise busy day, to stop for a moment of silence in honor of those that will forever be connected to 9/11."

The ceremony will be held on the Runnels County Courthouse lawn at 10 a.m. on Saturday, September 11.

On 9/11/2001, 2,977 people lost their lives during the terrorist attacks the struck both buildings of the World Trade Center (2,606), the Pentagon (125), and on 4 hijacked airliners (265). The victims included 344 firefighters, as well as 71 law enforcement officers who died in the World Trade Center and on the ground in New York City.