Local DPS sergeant attends 9/11 anniversary ceremony
By Mike Cantu
Sergeant Texas Highway Patrol
Cuero Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the 9-11 memorial ceremony at the World Trade Center in New York City. It was an emotional event for family members, Police and Fire Department personnel, as well as US Military members. The question is often asked, “Where were you when the towers fell?”
On Sept. 11, 2001, I was a young Trooper with one year of experience stationed in Mathis. I recall getting dressed for work that morning and turning on the television to watch the news, as I did on a regular basis. The minute I saw the second plane hit that tower, I knew life in this country would never be the same.
I asked myself, “Who would dare attack the United States?” Then a plane hit the Pentagon, and another plane crashed in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. It was a sad day for our country, not only because of the thousands of lives lost, but the mere fact that terrorism had hit home.
A total of 2,996 people were killed that day and 6,000 people were injured. This attack also caused over $10 billion in infrastructure and property damage. Twenty-three NYPD Officers lost their lives that day. Thirty-seven Port Authority Police Officers were also killed.
Three hundred and forty-three New York Fire Department Personnel also died in the attack. In July of 2001, my wife and I traveled to New York City for our honeymoon. We spent a week in the city. We were in awe of the city, and I recall taking photographs of the twin towers while riding in a double decker tour bus. I recall meeting numerous NYPD officers and visiting precinct stations while sightseeing.
I was even given an application to apply with NYPD, but I knew a small town Texas boy had no business in the big city as a cop. Upon leaving New York City, I had the upmost respect for the NYPD and the difficult job they had. I knew that someday we would go back to visit and even maybe take an elevator ride to the top of one of the trade center buildings. I never imagined that two months after visiting New York City, those towers would fall.
The 9-11 attacks brought our country together, and the world of law enforcement changed drastically. Texas Troopers working the highways started using their criminal interdiction methods to focus on potential terrorist suspects. Anti-Terrorism units became the norm in larger Police Departments to deal with the ongoing threats.
Although the focus of law enforcement has changed to address mass shootings in the last couple of years, terrorism still remains a real threat in our country. Watching the honor guard present the iconic US flag flown on Sept. 11, 2001 was emotional. Meeting with retired NYPD personnel who were on the job the day the towers fell was an experience.
When I travel to NYC, I stay with NYPD Sgt. Billy Schau, who was also in the US Army National Guard at the time. He talks about how he was part of the bucket brigade after 9-11. They would stop what they were doing every time a victim was found to pay respects. They worked long hours each day as part of the recovery effort.
I met two NYPD Officers on the flight from Austin to New York last week. They had just attended the funeral for Trooper Moises Sanchez in Edinburg, Texas. Days later, before the 9-11 ceremony began, they found me in the crowd amongst hundreds of police officers. It was then I realized I was the only law enforcement officer at the event wearing cowboy boots and a cowboy hat.
Numerous Police Officers thanked me for attending the event and representing Texas. I thank the Department of Public Safety for authorizing me to wear my uniform at this event. It was an experience I will never forget. Today, the World Trade Center and the 9-11 Memorials are absolutely beautiful and touching.
The 9-11 Museum is an unforgettable experience, but let us not forget the lives lost and damage caused on that day. While at the TSA checkpoint in New York, I had to take my shoes off and my carry-on bag was opened because the agent saw an odd shaped object in my bag via X-ray. After determining it was a big block of Parmesan cheese from the local Italian market in Brooklyn, they laughed it off and let me go.
A small price to pay to know that our country is doing everything they can to prevent another terrorist attack.