September 15, 2021 135 PM
ALPINE –– As the sun peeked over Alpine to the east, hundreds of residents and law enforcement personnel from the region gathered Saturday morning to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center in the heart of New York City.
The ceremony, held in front of the grassy knoll that leads up to the Alpine Border Patrol station, commenced with a somber tune of bagpipes and drums as Border Patrol agents in ceremonial garb gripped flags and walked around a memorial dedicated to the victims of 9/11 –– a 1,300 pound twisted steel beam retrieved from one of the fallen towers.
As many of the speakers at the ceremony explained it, the Alpine Border Patrol station has a special connection with the tragedy that befell New York City on September 11. On the morning of the attacks, the agency was hosting a groundbreaking ceremony to kick off the construction of the new Alpine Border Patrol station. Yet the groundbreaking was cut short once the news had gotten out that a plane had slammed into the north tower of the building complex.
“Approximately nine years later, agents from the Alpine station petitioned the New York/ New Jersey Port Authority for a piece of the World Trade Center to construct this memorial,” said Border Patrol Agent Michael French in the first speech of many.
“Alpine agents drove to New York, retrieved the artifact,” French said. “The memorial you see here today was constructed by the agents and personnel of this station and sector. The memorial was unveiled 10 years after the attacks happened.”
“How tragically ironic that a building dedicated to the safety and security of the United States should begin construction at the exact moment that other buildings, some 2000 miles away, would be destroyed by those enemies of this country who would see us all perish,” reads the plaque in front of the twisted steel beam now covered in rust.
Toward the middle of the ceremony, Brewster County Sheriff Ronny Dodson came to the podium to recount an experience of his in the years following 9/11. “As the months and years went by, I met a man in Terlingua, whose brother was an alderman in New York City. This is how close we were to these people,” Dodson said.
That man from Terlingua, Dodson said, had a piece of metal from tower number two that he had forged into a star and was now resting in his yard. “Well he ended up giving me a piece of that metal, which I felt pretty honored by,” Dodson said. “I felt kind of a ghostly feeling about it. You know, how many people died under this? It was a really really weird feeling to have this.”
“I kept that piece of metal in my office for years and years and years. Sometimes if I find a veteran or somebody I think might need something, I have a piece of that shaved off for him,” Dodson said.
And after his story came to a close, Dodson brought out a sliver of the tower to present to Big Bend Sector Chief Sean McGoffin. “It’s very tempered. It got very hot. This is a very hot piece of metal. And this is from tower number two,” Dodson said. “And I want to present it to you, as you present your little medals that you give around to people today.”
“Sheriff, I will definitely treasure this. And I promise you, I will never forget,” McGoffin replied.
“Today, and every 9/11 that follows, we will gather here at Alpine Border Patrol station to reflect on the blessings of this great country,” McGoffin said in his speech. “As Americans we will never ever stand down, we will keep fighting to protect this country we love.”
Brewster County Chief Deputy Ryan Skelton also came up to the podium and not only recounted where he was on the day of the 9/11, but also beseeched his fellow law enforcement agencies to reunite as they did in the years immediately following the attacks. His speech, in many ways, appeared to be an olive branch offered to the Alpine Police Department, which has publicly butt heads with the sheriff’s office in recent years.
“One of the things that has happened since 9/11 is that we’re losing it to history. And I don’t want to lose it to history. I want to focus on September 12th. What happened after September 11th. They way it brought us together. The way we fought,” Skelton said. “One of the things that changed was the unity between law enforcement. And that was one of the neatest things I got to experience in my career.”
“We started working together. We all had a common goal, a common fight. I don’t want to lose that. And you see that deterioration happening. So we need to remember September 12th,” he said.
Once the speeches had come to a close, agents laid a wreath in front of the twisted steel memorial. The organizers then played voicemail audio clips of those aboard hijacked planes trying to reach their loved ones on the phone. A chaplain’s benediction brought the remembrances to a close.