FORT WORTH — More than 5,000 high school students from the Northwest ISD were invited to Texas Motor Speedway Tuesday to pay tribute to the victims of the September 11 terrorist attacks.
"There is nothing more Americana than high school," said Speedway president Eddie Gossage. "With the bands playing, and the schools just having a big pep rally, it's just a great thing today."
Also invited to the event were first responders from North Texas and NASCAR driver Clint Bowyer.
"It's incredible to have that kind of freedom and protection to live upon, and we thank you guys," Bowyer told the first responders in the audience. "It’s a great feeling to know you guys are protecting us. I can't go anywhere without knowing somebody that wasn't directly affected — you know what I mean. My truck driver, he lost his brother in 9/11, and it’s so sad to remember that."
The students — who are juniors and seniors in high school now — were first and second-graders in 2001, and as young as they were, the impressions of that day will never be forgotten.
I just remember walking into my mom’s bedroom," said Carter James, a linebacker at Northwest High School. "She had the TV on; she was kind of in shock. We didn't really grasp it at that time, but as the years went on, it kind of meant more."
"It's something I’ve kind of grown up with," said Travis Stubblefield, an offensive tackle at Northwest High School. "You know, America is not invincible. Nobody's invincible. It was kind of a wake-up at a young age at that point, and it really was a sad day."
After the ceremony, the students from the three high schools had a chance to participate in a relay, but the day was all about paying respect.
"The first responders out here — respect them; respect those who died; respect our troops out there," Carter said. "I think that's the biggest thing we can do."