“I’m proud to be an American” was the opening statement at the Sept. 11 memorial ceremony Friday morning in the parking lot of J.P. Stone Community Bank in Portales.
Bank president David Stone addressed the crowd of area residents with a message of remembrance.
“Osama bin Laden had never been heard of … and airplane travel was considered the safest way to travel,” Stone said. “That morning, all that changed.”
Stone told his crowd U.S. citizens have to be aware terrorist enemies are still out there and Americans always need to be on their guard for this reason.
“This war is far from over. It may have just begun,” Stone said. “We have the finest military in the world and we thank God for the men and women who serve.”
Roosevelt County Sheriff Darren Hooker, who also served in the U.S. Army, was the guest speaker for the event.
Rather than focusing on where individuals were the day of the Sept. 11 attacks, Hooker chose to ask his audience what they had been doing since that day.
“As a boy, I remember asking my grandfather where he was when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor,” Hooker said. “My 10-year-old daughter has come and asked me if she was alive when it happened. I told her yes, which has led her to ask those questions of me: ‘Where were you, Dad?’ 9/11 will be for us to tell.”
Hooker continued, telling his audience the attacks caused him to be sent to Iraq for one year.
He said although many have moved on, some still cannot.
“All of those that were killed that day… left behind families. Children to grow without parents, spouses to live alone and parents to wonder why,” Hooker said. “Let me challenge you to not take anything for granted. Always treat every moment as if it were your last and always, always, tell those you love, ‘I love you.’”
Janet Bresenham, Portales resident but New York native, sang a song about love for the audience and ended with “God Bless America.”
“I keep thinking, 10 years later, about those people in the towers and on those planes and how the last thing they did was grab their cell phones to be able to call loved ones to say one last time they loved them,” Bresenham said. “No matter what happens in this life, I think the power of love and hope are still stronger.”
Bresenham said she flew to New York two months later and she remembers gasping in surprise upon seeing the empty skyline.
“I had flown into there a dozen times and I wasn’t used to (the Twin Towers) not being there,” she said.
John Hilliard, a Portales native and current New York resident, was also present at the ceremony.
Hilliard said he lived 15 blocks from the towers the day of the attacks and heard the first plane fly over his apartment.
“I couldn’t go back to my apartment for the next month without showing my ID,” Hilliard said. “They had the neighborhood blocked off and I had to show ID to get to my house.”
Hilliard said he has been visiting his mother in Portales for the last month. He will return Tuesday to New York.
“I’ll miss all of the New York ceremonies, so I’m so grateful to David for doing this,” Hilliard said. “This was special to me.”