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In DFW, Serving Was Remembering

Lyndsay Knecht

Eleven years to the day since 9/11, memories remained strong Tuesday at ceremonies across North Texas.

In Oak Cliff, the Dallas Police Choir opened groundbreaking ceremonies for a new trauma and critical care tower at Methodist Medical Center. The ceremony paid tribute to police and firefighters’ sacrifice on 9/11 and since then.

“We recognize the firefighters and police that protect us as they place themselves in harm’s way,” said Carole Somer Clark, a Methodist Hospital chaplain.

9/11 is a reminder we remain diligent as a country, but also public safety officers continue to remain hyper-vigilant to protect the citizens of this country,” said David Brown, Dallas’ police chief. 

Brown pointed out that many of the first responders spent weeks working in the debris of the World Trade Center towers.

At a Unity Day USA prayer service in North Dallas, Imam Yaseen Shaikh echoed a call heard for the last 11 years: for calm and tolerance, with no retaliation against American Muslims.

“We may have fundamental differences in our ideologies, in our faiths and our practices, but we came from God and we’re the children of Adam,” Shaikh said. “We should live side by side and coexist and respect the other and accept the other.”

At Sarah Zumwalt Middle School in South Dallas, more than 500 volunteers with the Entrepreneurs of North Texas observed 9/11 by taking up paint rollers to give the aging school a facelift. The group has marked the anniversary every year since the attacks with a day of service.

For Sunny Nunan, that day 11 years ago was full of anxiety, as she waited to hear from family members in the Northeast. The opportunity to volunteer at Freedom Day has changed the way she looks at the anniversary.

“Not only are our lives not the same,” she said, “but I think many agree that this has become a day that we look forward to every year.”

Mayor Mike Rawlings thanked volunteers from the school's auditiorium stage. The students at Zumwalt Middle School, he said, largely come from low-income families with challenges at home. But Zumwalt is also one of Dallas Independent School District's highest-performing school academically. The city adopted the school as a priority in its Grow South initiative. 

“9/11 obviously changed the direction of where we were going back in the turn of the century,” said Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings. “But what I am fascinated by is that we have changed this into a day where we give back.”

While volunteers prettied up the school, the students were bussed off to Studio Movie Grill. Rocking in their high-backed chairs, they watched The Odd Life of Timothy Green and heard from more entrepreneur volunteers about how to get to college.

More than one Zumwalt student knows 9/11 first as something to “celebrate” as much as  remember. Eighth grader Ja’Lisa Ervin was 2 years old when the towers fell. Still, she says she wants the loved ones of victims to know they haven’t been forgotten. And next year, she says, she’ll do that by helping others herself.

“When we got on the bus, there was like a lot of volunteers. I was like, wow. They’re really here to help us. It was like, wow,” she said. “It’s just not like, well, we’re coming to work today, oh well. They looked proud to help.”