If time heals all wounds, then many of those American’s impacted by the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 are still waiting. Emotions ran high early last Monday as Prosper residents gathered with first responders at Frontier Park to memorialize lives lost in the attacks and to celebrate the patriotism that pulled the country through.

“It’s been 16 years,” said Prosper Police Sergeant Ron Castro, “and there was a time I would have said it felt like yesterday.”

Castro was one of three honored guests at the ceremony, each of whom shared his recollection of the events that played out 16 years prior. Prosper Police Chief Doug Kowalski and retired New York Fire Department firefighter Jose Prosper were likewise featured during the event, speaking beneath the American flag and alongside a massive metal beam from the World Trade Center.

“The small piece (of the World Trade Center) that you see behind us is over 7,000 pounds,” said Prosper Fire Department Chief Stuart Blasingame. “We’re very honored to have this. It travels…. So we can continue to make sure that nobody forgets.”

Blasingame went on to recount his 9/11 experiences, when he received the call directing him to turn on the news. He recalled the images of people fleeing for their lives and commended Prosper High School for their candid depiction of those events during the USA pep rally last week, before turning the podium over to New York City’s retired firefighter, Jose Prosper.

Prosper Fire Department’s relationship with Jose Prosper was solidified at a conference several years ago when he recognized his last name on the PFD emblem and teased about needing a t-shirt. Prosper’s Fire Department brought Jose Prosper and his family to visit the city and to share his story at the 9/11 memorial event.

Jose Prosper called his leap into action on September 11 “operation on instinct.” He drove into the city, his wife holding his badge out of the window so he’d be allowed through, and his daughter blissfully oblivious to the tragedy as she sat in her car seat behind him.

“These moments allowed me to regroup,” he said. “Playing with my daughter in the mirror, making faces, allowed me to forget what I was seeing in front of me.”

Jose Prosper lost countless friends and coworkers to the 9/11 attacks and admitted that the pain is not something that goes away. He tearfully thanked his family for their support and service, his wife and daughter are first responders, and called them the real heroes. This heartfelt gratitude and the sincerity of his sorrow resonated most with Prosper residents in attendance.

“His story was really moving,” said local Mike Gregory. “I think it is so important for people, and especially kids, to hear these stories and see the things that happened. That’s the best way to understand how and why we are the country we are today.”