A stray dog in Afghanistan kindled Stan Parker’s desire to help the helpless, and now he’s the driving force behind a 9/11 observance Saturday that will honor first responders and include food and drink for the public.
Saturday marks the 20th anniversary of terrorist attacks on New York’s World Trade Center and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., killing nearly 3,000 people. Intervention by passengers caused a third plane to crash in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, likely not the terrorists’ intended target.
Parker, who owns an electric contracting company, remembers that Sept. 11, 2001, began routinely enough in Central Texas. He and a colleague were replacing a trailer tongue, and Parker briefly stepped in his home, maybe to retrieve something, and he caught the image that changed the world.
TV news was showing a jetliner striking the North Tower. It and the later struck South Tower would crumble to the ground.
“9/11 showed we had a bunch of holes in our defense system, but it also showed the good in America, the helping of people we’d never seen before and would never see again. That’s the American trait,” Parker said. “We have the greatest system in the world. It gets turned upside down every four years, but that’s not meant as a political statement, not left or right.”
He said Saturday’s event is free, open to the public and begins at 7 a.m. in the parking lot of Lee Lockwood Library & Museum, 2801 W. Waco Drive. Longtime KWTX-TV weather anchor Rusty Garrett will emcee festivities. Parker said he expects local fire, police and emergency medical service vehicles and representatives to attend, as well as elected officials.
He said the ceremony will include a moment of silence, remarks and the respectful playing of the national anthem by a local guitarist.
What will not be tolerated are partisan political demonstrations.
“Anybody here with petitions will be run off,” Parker said.
A flyer proclaims the event serves to honor and remember “those who died, those who served and those who carry on,” referencing not only those who lost their lives on 9/11 but other first responders nationwide.
Parker, who lives in Lott, said he did not serve in the military. His son, Austin, did, traveling extensively as a helicopter mechanic in the U.S. Marine Corps.
Parker has formed the Stan C. Parker Foundation, which involves itself in programs to benefit military veterans, though not exclusively. His website says the charity is meant to “assist those in need … with a culture of advocacy, support, charity, education and attaining joy through victory.”
A cause it champions is rescuing animals in need of good homes. This goal stems from Parker’s successful efforts to bring to Central Texas a stray dog that U.S. Marines stationed in Afghanistan claimed as their own. Finishing their deployment in 2010, they worried about the dog’s fate in their absence.
Locals here raised several thousand dollars to bring “Kujo” back to Texas. Unfortunately, Kujo one day wandered into the woods near his new home and, despite a massive search, was never seen again, according to Parker’s website.