As Adam Kovaly walked through a 9/11 memorial in Parker on the 20th anniversary of the attacks, his three children walked alongside him, peering at printed-out photos from that day.
“That’s so sad,” one of his children remarked while looking at a photo of the rubble.
Kovaly, a Parker resident and a veteran, went to the memorial in O’Brien Park on Sept. 11 because he wanted to teach his young kids about the attacks, he said.
“I went to Afghanistan twice and I had all my kids while I was in the military,” he said. “So I just wanted to come here and show them what the whole thing is about.”
His kids — ages 4, 6 and 8 — weren’t alive when the attacks occurred. Now, he’s working on explaining to them the significance of that day.
“It definitely is a difficult conversation,” he said. “On the way here we put on a YouTube video of remembering 9/11 and had other people explain the whole, how it happened, when it happened. But they know that I deployed, they know that I fought for the country and they appreciate it and they appreciate a lot of the service members.”
Kovaly and other Parker residents had this local opportunity to commemorate the lives lost during the 9/11 attacks, thanks to a group of residents who put up hundreds of American flags in the park for the 20th anniversary of the event.
“It’s a no brainer,” said Tony Denning, one of the organizers, who said he had been working on the project for about six months.
The memorial honors first responders who were killed that day and those who later died due to health complications from the event. Denning and others organized a bagpipe performance, a flyover and other elements during the event.
Bruce Hicks, an Elizabeth resident who often finds himself in Parker, also attended the memorial. As he walked among the flags, he thought about the close relationship he had to the events of that day.
At the time of the 9/11 attacks, Hicks worked in crisis public relations with American Airlines. The day the towers fell, he watched the news unfold alongside his wife.
“Suddenly we saw the second plane come into view and make the turn and I was screaming at my wife, 'He’s going to the next tower,’” he said.
A couple minutes later, he confirmed that one of the planes that hit the towers was an American Airlines aircraft.
“I kept a crash bag handy and was out the door before the towers came down,” he said.
He drove to headquarters in Dallas, the whole way on the phone with American Airlines and others who kept him informed on the situation, he said.
“I spent the next six weeks at headquarters,” he said, "which was tough because I didn’t see my kids.”
During those days following the event, he barely got to watch any news coverage because he was so busy acting as a liaison with the American Airlines security department.
“American (Airlines) was a victim in it. But at the same time we had all the customer issues, the employee issues, because we lost our own people. We not only lost our customers in those two flights but we lost our own employees.” he said.
As Hicks walked through the memorial in Parker, he said he thought about the heroism that took place that day 20 years ago. The heartbreak he witnessed from those impacted. The drive he took to the Pentagon not long after one of the planes crashed into it.
“I remember the unity after Sept. 11, whereas despite our political differences, there was a real coming together in this country,” he said “And to see it today and the political division and the vitriol and the ugliness, is just, it’s so disappointing, it’s so crushing.”