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Federal, state and local law enforcement joined first responders Monday morning at the Veterans International Bridge to remember those who lost their lives in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
“Though we are scarred, we are reminded of how we have been healed by your grace and your mercy,” U.S. Customs and Border Protection Chaplain Mark Villalobos said in an opening prayer to commemorate the events that unfolded 22 years ago when the hijacked planes were flown into the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon near Washington, D.C., and when United Airlines Flight 93 crashed in the Pennsylvania countryside outside of Shanksville, Pa.
Nearly 3,000 people were killed that day, and hundreds of other firefighters, paramedics and other New York Fire Department employees have died from cancers and other illnesses linked to the toxic dust at ground zero.
“We are humbled by the courage and bravery of those first responders who thought not of themselves but rushed in to help others. We remember their selflessness and service to others. We remember their greatest act of love: giving their lives to save the lives of others,” Villalobos said.
CBP officer Mark Davis, who was a New York City police officer on 9/11, was taking his ex-wife to a doctor’s appointment in New Jersey that morning.
“I handed the token to the clerk when the first plane hit. He looked at me and his face went white. …By the time I got my change back the second plane hit. Then my beeper went off 9-1-1. I had to go back to work,” Davis recalled
Driving back to Manhattan, it was a scene like out of a horror movie, he said. “The sounds, the smells. I wasn’t there to witness the jumpers. I was there to pick up the pieces after they fell,” Davis, who relocated to Brownsville in 2018, said.
“Preparedness was not there. It was not on our side that day. We were not ready. We didn’t know what we were doing. But I will say that the heroes that people speak about, most of the heroes were standing right next to me. They were the other officers. …Nobody was there but us, the fire department and anybody else that put on a uniform. I even saw a Cub Scout troop giving out food and water, and it was just basically New Yorkers working together to try to lighten this load. You could actually understand how cities are put together and how the idealism of us working as people could prevail. That day we saw it.”
After Davis spoke, three volleys were fired, a bugler played Taps and the Brownsville Fire Department’s bagpipes corps performed Amazing Grace.
Customs & Border Protection’s Air and Flight Operations conducted a fly-over and the U.S. flag was unfurled, folded and presented.
Davis relocated to Brownsville after serving in Iraq as a National Guard military policeman in 2004. He retired from the NYPD in 2011 and pulled two tours of duty in Afghanistan as a U.S. Marine.
“I came back and started working for government, and my friend tells me, ‘Hey there’s a job with the Border Patrol, are you interested in relocating from New York?’ and I was. Brownsville was the place that was open. The Brownsville I knew I did not like, it was in Brooklyn. So I came down here, and I loved it. Started working here 2018 February. Been here ever since. And I’m not going back,” Davis said.
“I haven’t had any negative, at least not yet, and the town itself is very affordable compared to New York. …The people have been very welcoming, and unfortunately, I fell in love with the food. I can’t leave now. I can’t do it,” he said.