Local residents pause to remember 9/11
Javelina stadium was filled with Hoggie fans wearing their blue and gold on Saturday, but they weren’t just there to support the football players. Thirty minutes before kickoff, fans gathered for the 9-11 pre-game remembrance ceremony.
The Javelina marching band took the field and performed a few pieces, and Assistant Professor of Voice and Opera Melinda Brou sang a rendition of “God Bless America.”
A video of images from 9/11 was shown on the scoreboard, and the ROTC color guard walked to midfield to present the colors. A moment of silence was held, followed by a flyover by the T-45 trainers from Naval Air Station Kingsville. After the pregame ceremony, the Javelina football players took the field waving small American flags. The Javelinas went on to win the game against Minot State by a score of 19-7.
The remembrance activities continued Sunday with a Ceremony of Honor at the John E. Conner Museum at 6 p.m. Scott Gines, Vice President of Institutional Advancement at Texas A&M University-Kingsville, welcomed the attendees.
ROTC and Boy Scouts brought out a paper chain, on the links of which were written the names of everyone who was killed in the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. They were led by the ROTC color guard carrying the colors and a bagpiper from the U.S Border Patrol Bagpipe team, Malcom Brown.
Lt. Mark Haley, Command Chaplin at NAS Kingsville, led the invocation and read a few Psalms at the ceremony.
“May God continue to bless our righteous nation, the United States of America,” Haley said.
A few of the Boy Scouts led the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance and presented the Kleberg County Sheriff Ed Mata Sr. and Kingsville Chief of Police Ricardo Torres with flags, thanking them for their service to the city.
Hal Ham, Director of the John E. Conner Museum, gave recognition to the special guests in the audience that included firefighters, border patrol agents and police officers.
“I would like to thank all public uniform service, both past and present, who are here today, and we honor your service to us,” Ham said.
Kleberg County Judge Juan Escobar was scheduled to give a speech at the ceremony but was ill at the time and could not attend. Escobar prepared a speech beforehand and Ham read it on his behalf.
“On this day we are to remember the events of Sept. 11, 2001, and I’m sure that everyone here remembers,” Ham read. “What we need to do is to make sure that the children remember. There are children who are 10 years old that don’t remember at all the horrors and terrors that struck this nation at that point.”
Anse Windham, President of the Friends of the Conner Museum, was next to address the crowd and rededicated an olive tree that was planted five years ago in memory of 9/11.
“Today, we meet here again just as Americans meet all across the country to rededicate ourselves to that purpose. We will not forget,” Windham said. “As a symbol of our hope for peace, this tree has flourished and grown. The stone has proclaimed our purpose…to our additional sorrow thousands of our best have fallen over the last 10 years. As has been noted and ever true, freedom is not free. It is fought with courage and sacrifice by the people of our nation.”
Guest speaker Capt. Mark McLaughlin, Base Commander at NAS Kingsville, spoke of where he was when the World Trade Center was attacked.
“We all know what happened – kids you’re going to learn about it in your history books,” McLaughlin said. “But I’ll share with you where I was on 9-11 and what was going on, because I think I saw 9-11 from a different perspective than most people.”
McLaughlin said that at the time he was assigned to the National Airborne Operations Center in Omaha, Neb. He was aboard a Boeing 747 on the ground in Washington and was briefing his superiors about nuclear weapons. An officer heard over the radio that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. McLaughlin said that he assumed it was just a bad accident and not a terrorist attack, and continued with his briefing. While strict rules usually prohibit anyone from interrupting the briefing, McLaughlin soon felt a tap on his shoulder and was told go to battle conditions.
As he learned of the second plane striking the towers, the plane made ready for takeoff.
“I’ll never forget how violent the take off was, they were not holding anything back,” McLaughlin said.
Soon after, the pilots informed him a third plane had struck the Pentagon.
He said that over the next few hours they were the airborne back up to control all military forces around the world.
“The FAA came on the line and reminded us that we were the only airplane airborne over North America at that time,” McLaughlin said. “And he said that hasn’t happened since the Wright Brothers.”
Following McLaughlin’s comments, Reverend Chuck Miller from the First Presbyterian Church led the audience in a prayer. Afterwards, the Boy Scouts and ROTC walked the paper chain to Jones Auditorium, where the Concert of Remembrance would take place.
Master of Ceremonies Dick Messbarger got onstage and welcomed the nearly filled auditorium and began the event.
“We come together tonight to remember the 10 year anniversary of the events that forever changed America, Sept. 11, 2001,” Messbarger said. “Tonight, the community joins together as we remember the lives of those lost, their families, their survivors and those who have served their country in the days that followed the tragedy.”
He then introduced a video of individuals around the TAMUK campus reflecting on where they were when 9/11 occurred. The video was created and edited by Communication students Sabrina Reyna and Michael Bolman.
Messbarger then introduced Mary Gonzalez, Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs, and Kristen Compary, Dean of Students, to welcome the audience and introduce the speakers. President of TAMUK Dr. Steven Tallant was originally scheduled to speak, but he was unable to attend because of a meeting with the Chancellor of the A&M System. Gonzalez read Tallant’s speech on his behalf.
“Anything that he could say would not ease the pain caused by the attacks of our nation,” Gonzales read. “In the end, Dr. Tallant has asked us to focus on the good that we can see in the midst of the smoke, fire and destruction of that day.”
Compary gave recognition to Art Lecturer Robert Pena for his art installation that was displayed in the auditorium lobby area in honor of the victims of Sept. 11.
District 43 State Representative J.M Lozano then went onstage to read a proclamation.
“I remember three days [after 9/11] on TV, watching President Bush at Ground Zero speaking with firefighters with a bullhorn in his hand,” Lozano said. “A firefighter yelled out ‘I can’t hear you’ and President Bush said, ‘I can hear you and soon the people who caused this will hear us all’ and sure enough, we took the war to their backyard.”
Lozano’s speech received applause from the audience, but that applause turned to tears as the audience heard the next speaker.
Hanns Mimberg, Director of Planning and Project Management, went onstage and told his survival story. Mimberg was on the 56th floor in Tower Two on Sept. 11, 2001. Mimberg said that he is a bit nervous when planes fly close by and sometimes screams when someone drops something outside his window.
“I’m amazingly touched that you’re all here this evening. I did not realize, being from New York, that anybody outside of New York City even cared or that anybody even thought about this,” Mimberg said. “I’m really, really touched and pleased to see all of you here.”
There were numerous performances throughout the concert, including a performance from the children of Kingsville who sang “America the Beautiful” and a reading of the “Ragged Old Flag” by Johnny Cash, which was narrated by Larry Purkey with a piano performance by Allison Ulmer.
Brian Shelton also gave a performance of “Alarm: Call to Duty” during a slideshow presentation of images from Sept. 11. The audience was then asked to join in on singing “God Bless America.”
The concert ended with the retiring of the colors and “Taps” being played by John Cord on trumpet. The trombone choir performed an outdoor recessional with their conductor, Oscar Diaz.