LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - On a clear, blue day when understated memorial ceremonies were held across the United States in honor of Sept. 11, 2001, East Texans paused to remember that fateful Tuesday and spoke of how 911 changed their lives.
Eleven years ago to the day, Americans' routine was interrupted by terrorist attacks in New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C. Today, flags across the nation were at half staff in honor of the thousands of Americans who lost their lives during the attacks and the men and women who so courageously sacrificed their lives in their country's time of need.
At the time, Lufkin Fire Marshall Steve McCool was mowing his grass. Zac Hassell, an Angelina College student, was in his third grade class. Another AC student, Blaine By run, was 11 years old and living in Dallas. He remembered "sitting around the house and my parents turned the TV on."
"I was actually on midnight patrol, I had just gotten off shift," said Stephen Williamson, AC's director of security training."
After the attacks, Lufkin Fire Marshall Steve McCool rushed to Ground Zero to lend his help. While there, he witnessed an unwavering unity.
"We were working together hand in hand, literally forming lines handling debris from one hand to the other," McCool said. "We were going back and forth to Ground Zero. It was like a parade route with the people standing with flags waving and cheering."
A piece of that rubble resides in the Lufkin Fire Department main station as a reminder of all the firefighters that lost their lives on 911, McCool said.
As Blaine Byrum, an Angelina College student, pointed out, "Three-hundred-sixty-four firefighters went into (the World Trade Center towers) knowing very good and well that they were not coming out."
U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Lyman Moak was deployed to Iraq after the attacks, and he said the time he spent there made him thankful for the freedoms that many Americans take for granted.
"I was over there for a year and seeing the people I got to help become free from oppression really changed me inside and made me realize how great America is," Moak said.
Byrum said, to him, 911 now represents the strength that embodies the character of the United States and lives within every American, "the strength that it took to keep going even after all the rubble, all the smoke." He added, "When we are faced with great difficulty, we rise."