Fourteen years ago today, nearly 3,000 lives were lost. And even more were changed after the 9/11 attacks. To mark the day, the group Entrepreneurs For North Texas hosted what it calls “Freedom Day.” A thousand volunteers -- including 300 veterans -- spent the day in the woods south of downtown Dallas, helping the nonprofit Equest, which uses horse therapy with veterans and disabled kids.
Rachel Williams was one of those volunteers. It was her third year helping out.
“It kinda, you know, gives you soul hugs or something,” Williams said. She has a set of grandparents that were in the Marines Corps. “Today is really just a day about giving back and making a different memory for 9/11 and kind of replacing those bad memories and doing something good for the community.”
The volunteers dug water lines, cleared trails through the park and built raised garden beds, which will later be used to grow carrots and lettuce to feed the horses.
Jeff Hensley, Equests’ clinical director, is a 21-year veteran who flew fighter jets for the Navy. Half his career, he was active duty; the other half, a reservist. He also volunteered to serve in Iraq. And on that September morning in 2001, he was piloting a commercial flight for United Airlines, out of Hartford, Conn.
“We flew right over Manhattan on the departure out of New York, which turned out to be 30 minutes before... American 11 went in,” he recalled. One of his military friends was on the other plane that hit the towers.
“My transition, it took a long time, and it was really hard,” Hensley said. “But there were a lot of people out there that helped me. They stepped in, and they kind of took my hand and helped me find my fit in civilian life.”
Hensley said Equest is trying to help veterans with that type of transition. And to him, events like Freedom Day, give the boost his group needs.