EL PASO, Texas - A sea of American flags blanketed the front entrance to the El Paso Community College-Mission del Paso campus. More than two thousand flags were placed by volunteers that arrived as early as 4 a.m. to honor those killed in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The sobering tribute stood as a backdrop for the Sept. 11 Patriot Day Event that marked the eighth anniversary of the tragedy. The ceremony was timed to coincide the with the sequence of events from that fateful morning with Marines from Battery D, 2nd Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment rendering a 21-gun salute to the fallen and extended moments of silence.

Present at the event were color guard units from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force. Additionally, the 62nd Army Band, stationed at Fort Bliss, Texas, performed patriotic music for the crowd that gathered outside the school.

A range of guest speakers from El Paso and Fort Bliss appeared at the event, demonstrating how Americans in the wake of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11 have come to represent one unified team with a single goal: national security.

"These attacks, that were intended to destroy our morale, threaten our security and break down our way of life did not succeed," said Col. Emmett Schaill, Fort Bliss deputy commanding general and chief of staff. "And they [the terrorist attacks] did not succeed because of you, the American people, a people that will never surrender to fear and will not succumb to attacks on liberty or freedom."

Special recognition was paid to those who died on Sept. 11 but also to servicemembers who have died or place themselves in danger to protect America from future terrorist attacks. Emotion ran high for all in attendance, including the speakers, who at times, had to pause and collect their thoughts.

"On this day, at this time, not only do we remember the lives lost on 9-11, we continue to remember those who are putting their lives on the line every day so that we can gather on this campus to think and grow with freedom," said Ernst Roberts, presidential executive assistant at EPCC.

With 25 years of service in the Army, Schaill admitted that he didn't know a lot about sports or celebrities, but what he did know was Soldiers. He said that he knew where his Soldiers were from, the names of their families and also, he knew where some of them had been buried.

"These Soldiers are my heroes. They joined and served in an Army where they knew they would fight," Schaill said. "Freedom is fragile and we must all stand together."

Several Veterans were in attendance, including Baldomero Casares, now an employee with EPCC, who fought with the 82nd Airborne Division and the 101st Airborne Division during the Korean War. Commemorative ceremonies such as those held on Sept. 11 also offer an opportunity for the Veteran to reflect on Soldiers that died in service more than 50 years ago.

"I love my country, and I am proud of my service. Being in the military is the best thing I could have done," Casares said.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16