President compares largest terror attack on American soil to Pearl Harbor.
By Lionel Ramos
Students in this college’s Fire and Law Enforcement academies stood tall and in formation on a cloudy morning to honor first responders who lost their lives on 9/11.
The Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack involved four hijacked airplanes, two of which were crashed into the twin towers in New York, one that was flown into the side of the Pentagon and another one, identified as United Airlines Flight 93, that crashed in Pennsylvania.
About 120 students, faculty and staff along with a service dog gathered around the 9/11 memorial stone on campus Sept. 11 to pay respect to the “343 firefighters, 60 police officers and eight paramedics,” who perished during the terrorist attack, College President Robert Vela said in a presentation at the event.
Vela called 9/11 “The Pearl Harbor of our generation” to put it in perspective for students on campus too young to remember it.
“I was 1 1/2,” engineering freshman Shane Pond said. “We were by the airport. It was an ordinary morning. My mother held me in her arms in front of the TV when we got home.”
Pond recalled his earliest memory in blurs of commotion and anxiety and said he remembered the events that day as “a great loss, a great tragedy.”
“We need to make sure it never happens again,” he said.
Others remember it more vividly.
“I was working in the American Sign Language program here at SAC,” said Jo Hilton, interpreting services manager for Alamo Colleges, who was interpreting the speeches at the commemoration. “We were dismissed that day. The college closed.”
She had a friend who was deaf go home with her to watch the news.
“It was just important that everyone knew exactly what was happening,” she said.
She explained that she interpreted the attack to her friend in real time.
“It’s so important to be clear,” she said, stressing it was her job at the ceremony to get the message across concisely and with proper emotion to students who can’t hear.
Seventeen years later, the day remains personal.
“I know a student,” she added as she spoke about a student in formation with the Fire and Law Enforcement academies.
The Rev. Valerie Vogt, campus minister for the Methodist Student Center, led a prayer.
“God, where do we begin?” she asked. “Seventeen years later, our hearts still break.”
The commemoration ended with the firefighter’s tradition of the ringing of four fives, the sounding of a bell in four sets of five chimes to honor and remember those who died in the line of duty; a moment of silence; and E.W. Forbess, a Highland Piper for San Antonio Pipes and Drums, playing “Amazing Grace.
As the ceremony ended, light rain began to fall and the Alamo College’s Honor Guard walked out of sight around the corner of Nail Technical Center.