In remembrance of September 11, South Texas College honors our serving men and women and first responders
Veteran McAllen Police Officer George Villarreal remembers the impact he felt when the planes hit the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.
As someone who has attended many funerals for fallen officers, Villarreal said it feels similar to losing a family member even if they have never met in person.
“As police officers, just like in the military, we don’t run away from trouble we run towards it. That’s our job,” Villarreal said. “It’s not about the glory or being heroes, it’s what we feel we have to do. We are a very close family.”
A veteran of the McAllen Police Department, Villarreal said he began as a patrolman and eventually rose to be a member of the SWAT Team. He is also a Black Belt in martial arts and has trained several members of law enforcements in self-defense skills. As a retired member of the McAllen Police, he is very involved in support of his community.
Addressing students, staff and faculty at South Texas College as a keynote speaker, Villarreal was among those who gathered to remember the events of Sept. 11, and convey their appreciation to those who sacrificed their lives.
“When you see an officer, fireman or paramedic, never forget to say thank you,” Villarreal said. “Losing a fellow officer, whether it be a fireman or paramedic or police officer always hits very hard. You don’t forget events like 9/11.”
South Texas College held 9/11 Remembrance Ceremonies at all campuses beginning with its Pecan Campus on Sept. 11 as well as its Technology, Nursing and Allied Health, and Starr County campuses.
The ceremonies were organized not just as solemn reminders of the events of 9/11, but also as a way to appreciate the work of law enforcement officers, firefighters, veterans, medical personnel, and all other first responders who put them themselves in harm’s way for the safety of others.
“Wherever you were, if you were alive during that time, you definitely remember where you were that day,” said Javier Arredondo, Coordinator of Veteran Recruitment and Engagement at South Texas College.
“You could see people jumping off the buildings. At the same time, when you saw everyone evacuating, who did you see going inside? It was the police officers, the firefighters and EMS,” Arredondo said. “After the collapse of the towers you saw all the volunteers all over the place lending a hand. It was those first responders who were in there trying to save lives. Regardless if they had a wife or child at home waiting for them, or a mom and dad or brother and sister, they had somebody waiting for them at home.
“That tells you about the heart of those service officers,” Arredondo said. “Their duty was to protect life, and that’s what they did that day. A lot of them lost their lives when the towers started collapsing on them.”
Sept. 11 timeline:
At 7:59 a.m., American Airlines Flight 11 with 92 people aboard took off from Boston-Logan International Airport en route to Los Angeles.
At 8:14 a.m., United Airlines Flight 175 with 65 people aboard took off from Boston, also headed to Los Angeles.
At 8:19 a.m., flight attendants about flight 11 alert ground personnel that the plane had been hijacked.
At 8:20 a.m., American Airlines Flight 77 takes off from Dulles International Airport outside of Washington DC headed to Los Angeles with 64 people.
At 8:40 a.m., the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) alerts North American Aerospace Defense Command about the suspected hijacking of flight 11. In response, NEAD scrambles two fighter planes located at Cape Cod Otis International Guard Base to locate and tail flight 11. They are not yet in the air when Flight 11 crashes into the north tower.
At 8:41 a.m., United Airlines Flight 93, a Boeing 757 with 44 people aboard takes off from Newark International Airport en route to San Francisco.
At 8:46 a.m., hijackers aboard American Airlines Flight 11 crashes the plane into floors 93-99 of the North Tower of the World Trade Center, killing everyone on board and hundreds inside the building.
At 8:47 a.m., the New York Police Department and New York Fire Department dispatch units to the World Trade Center while Port Authority police officers onsite begin immediate evacuation of the north tower.
At 8:50 a.m., White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card alerts President George W. Bush that a plane has hit the World Trade Center. The president is visiting an elementary school in Sarasota, Florida at the time.
At 9:03 a.m. after initially instructing tenants of the WTC South Tower to remain the building, Port Authority officials broadcast orders to evacuate both towers via the Public Address system. An estimated 10,000 to 14,000 people are already in the process of evacuating when hijackers crash United Airlines Flight 175 into floors 78-85 of the WTC south tower killing everyone on board and hundreds inside the building.
At 9:08 a.m, the FAA bans all take-offs of flights going into New York City or airspace around the city.
At 9:21 a.m., the Port Authority closes all bridges and tunnels in the New York City area.
At 9:24 a.m., the FAA is notified by NEADS that they suspected a hijacking of Flight 77 after passengers aboard are able to alert family members on the ground.
At 9:31 a.m., speaking from Florida, President Bush calls the events in New York City an apparent terrorist attack on our country.
At 9:37 a.m., hijackers aboard Flight 77 crash the plane into the western face of the Pentagon in Washington DC, killing 59 people aboard and 125 military and civilian personnel inside the building.
At 9:42 a.m., for the first time in history, the FAA grounds all flights bound for the continental US. Some 3,300 commercial flights and 1,200 private planes are guided to airports in Canada or the United States over the next two and a half hours.
At 9:45 a.m., amid escalating rumors of other attacks, the White House and US Capitol buildings are closed.
At 9:59 a.m., the south tower of the World Trade Center collapses.
At 10:07 a.m., after passengers and crewmembers aboard hijacked flight 93 contact friends and family and learn about the attacks in New York and Washington, they mount an attempt to retake the plane. In response, hijackers deliberately crash the plane into a field in Somerset County in rural Pennsylvania, killing all 40 passengers and crew onboard.
At 10:28 a.m., the World Trade Center North Tower collapses, 102 minutes after being struck by Flight 11.