News / USA

Texas Town Recalls 9/11 Terror Attacks

Greg Flakus

New York City, Washington and a field in Pennsylvania were the places that experienced the main impact of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. But in a world linked by mass communication media and the Internet, even people far from the scene, in small towns and rural back roads, felt shock, anger and grief.

Where is Nacogdoches?

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Shop clerk and singer-songwriter Cindy Grayson lives in Nacogdoches partly because she likes being away from the stress of big cities. She follows the news, but the wars and strife seem far away.

"Part of you does feel that it is happening way over, that it is still over there," she explains, "because we are so... I don't know, this is a whole other world here in Nacogdoches."

Still, she says the terror attacks of 10 years ago did bring fearful events closer to home.

So when the space shuttle Columbia broke apart over east Texas on February 1, 2003, dropping debris over the town and on her own property, she thought at first it was a terrorist attack.

"With the house shaking and everything, my first reaction was that they had blown up something in Dallas or that they had blown up Houston and we were just getting the vibration of it," Grayson recalls.

Personal connection

Many of Nacogdoches' 30,000 citizens feel a personal connection to America's war on terrorism.

Carolyn Adams has two sons in the U.S. military. She thinks U.S. operations in Afghanistan and the recent killing of Osama bin-Laden in Pakistan has reduced the terrorist threat.

"He's got followers, we know that," Adams says, "but I think getting him out of the way helped."

Retired doctor Carroll Gregory laments all the death and suffering in the wars and wonders if they really have protected the nation.

"I still worry that it could happen again; I am not sure we are safer," he says.

One of the people in charge of keeping people safe in Nacogdoches is police sergeant Gregory Sowell.

Improved security

He says the town is better protected than ever before because of financial grants from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

"We have more equipment now than we ever dreamed of having, sophisticated equipment, for a town this size," he stresses, "and we have actively pursued these grants."

Sowell says the federal grants help towns in east Texas work together on an emergency network that can respond to any kind of disaster.

"These plans and these resources were activated in Nacogdoches, Texas during hurricanes Rita and Ike," he explains.

For the most part life here is slow and easy.

Emotional scars melt away

Even the emotional impact of that terrible day 10 years ago has eased according to Archie McDonald, a history professor at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches.

"Probably the majority of people if they did not stop and do the arithmetic could not automatically tell you if it is nine or 12 or whatever it is," McDonald notes. "But when we get more to it or closer to the date, they will focus on it more and there will be some kind of community observance."

McDonald thinks September 11 will eventually be like other historic dates we observe more casually, like Independence Day.

"The Fourth of July time now we all just have a party, we are not remembering the fact that a lot of people died because of what happened 235 years ago," he says.

So as the 10th anniversary of the attacks on the United States approaches, people here continue to hope that they, their community and their country remains safe.

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