A Royse City church’s 9/11 Remembrance Project on Sunday paid tribute to the police officers and firefighters who lost their lives in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, but it also honored the living — the men and women who currently wear the red and blue as first responders.
“Whenever I look at the events of 9/11, I see these men and women who gave their lives,” Pastor Josh McGrew said Sunday during the event at Trinity Baptist Church. “I also see the men and women who daily go out and fight and stand up for what’s right, and to protect and serve.”
McGrew’s message — titled “No Greater Love” — was part of a two and one-half hour program that featured a U.S. Honor Flag presentation, standing for the fallen heroes, the traditional final alarm and requiem of the bagpipes.
A last-minute addition to the program was a behind-the-scenes presentation by Samantha Horwitz, a Rockwall resident who was in Tower 1 when terrorist hijackers flew a plane into the building on 9/11.
She didn’t speak to the large crowd of people seated under a tent on the church grounds. She spoke to a smaller group of law enforcement officers, firefighters and others who were sitting in the church sanctuary, preparing to serve in some capacity at the event.
In an email sent Saturday to Laszlo T. Laky, an organizer of the program, Horwitz said she was a U.S. Secret Service agent assigned to the New York field office.
“God put me there [in Tower 1] that day to save those who couldn’t save themselves,” she said in the email. “By the grace of God, I am here now to be a living reminder that we should never, ever forget.”
Horwitz, who is now retired, didn’t give graphic details of the tragedy. She did talk about the pain that some victims still suffer today, but most of her comments focused on thanking the first responders who were sitting in the church sanctuary Sunday morning.
“I thank you from the bottom of my heart for what you guys do every day,” she said. “We’re chosen to serve. It’s what’s in our hearts. It’s what’s in our blood. We can’t explain it, but every day, we get up in the morning; we look in the mirror; we know that we are chosen.”
For those who were on duty in New York City on 9/11, she said, “We have a permanent recorder that’s in our brain that will never go away.”
She talked about the importance of the church’s remembrance project.
“It’s very hard to form the words for me to express what today means, not only for me, but all of my brothers and sisters,” she said. “Some of them continue to suffer. We’re a community that needs this, your help to keep their memory alive and to help those who have that permanent imprint that won’t go away.
“To you guys and all my brothers and sisters in uniform today, thank you, thank you, thank you so much for what you do,” she said.
McGrew delivered his message outside later in the morning.
When the planes hit the buildings, he said, everybody on the ground turned and ran.
“But there were those others — the first responders,” he said. “Instead of running away from the terrible thing that happened, they turned and ran toward it. We have some of those people here this morning. We have people who are just like that. Wherever something happens, whenever something goes wrong, they don’t turn and run away. They run toward it. They do it because they know that they have an opportunity to give hope where hope is lost. They have an opportunity to give somebody just an ounce of the ability to continue to live their life.”
First responders, he said, go to work every day expecting to make a difference. And some do what they do, he said, without pay — like Royse City Fire Department firefighters.
“It’s a heart thing,” McGrew said. “They’ve made a choice to go and lay down their life.”
McGrew’s message was based on the scripture, John 15:13 — “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”