Saturday marks the 20th anniversary of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, a day which saw the worst terrorist attacks on American soil unfold.
Here in Kilgore and throughout East Texas, locals are taking time to pause and remember the terrible events of that day and the heroism and bravery shown by ordinary Americans in the midst of the attacks, the rescue and recovery efforts immediately following them and the years of war which came after them.
In Kilgore, an “Honor the Fallen” event will be held at the Kilgore Veterans Memorial at Harris Street Park at 9 a.m. The event will include prayer and remembrances of those who lost their lives in the attacks.
Also in Kilgore, there will be a patriotic acoustic jam at Kilgore Mercantile & Music at 105 N Kilgore St. from 4 to 9 p.m.
The Overton Fire Department will be hosting a memorial walk on Sept. 11 at 9 a.m. at city hall. This will be to honor the 20th anniversary of 9/11 and to memorialize the recent 13 fallen soldiers in Afghanistan.
The walk will start at city hall and go through downtown, making up exactly two miles for the 20th anniversary of 9/11. The walk is open to anybody, not just first responders. First responders are welcome to wear their gear.
Public health officials on Thursday reported 389 new cases of COVID-19 in Gregg County residents in the previous 48 hours.
The numbers represents a decrease in the rate of new cases from a Tuesday report that Northeast Texas Public Health Department spokesman Terrence Ates called “eye-popping.” On Tuesday, the health district reported 1,864 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 in Gregg County in a five-day span. Thursday’s report represents two days of data, but it also shows a decrease in new cases.
The report Thursday shows a rate of 8.1 new cases per hour during a 48-hour span. Numbers released Tuesday showed 15.53 new cases per hour through five days.
Overall active cases — including confirmed and probable cases — in the county decreased by 100 from Tuesday to Thursday. On Tuesday, there were 3,171 active cases, according to NET Health. On Thursday, there were 3,070. The decrease likely was due to a spike in the number of residents who have recovered. Total recoveries on Tuesday were 12,984 and increased to 13,456 on Thursday.
While the number of new cases was down in its most recent report, NET Health reports that Gregg County still has the highest seven-day rolling rate of infection in a seven-county region for which the organization provides disease surveillance.
For the previous seven days on Thursday, Gregg County’s seven-day rolling rate of infection was 142.92, down slightly from 148, adjusted for population. Each of the seven counties — Gregg, Smith, Anderson, Henderson, Rains, Van Zandt and Wood — still have “substantial” levels of community spread of the virus.
In Smith County, the seven-day rolling rate rose slightly from Tuesday to Thursday’s 131.4.
NET Health reported 500 new total COVID-19 cases in Smith County. Of the new cases, 200 were confirmed positives.
Overall active cases — including confirmed and probable cases — in Smith County also decreased amid an increase in recoveries. On Tuesday, there were 5,686 active cases, according to NET Health. On Thursday, there were 5,110. Total recoveries on Tuesday were 23,818 and increased to 24,886 on Thursday.
NET Heath reported Thursday there were 383 East Texas patients receiving treatment for COVID-19 at Tyler hospitals after the reported peak reached an all-time high of 389 over Labor Day weekend.
In a region including Longview and Tyler, the number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals set another record with data released Thursday.
The Texas Department of State Health Services reported 822 COVID-19 patients in Trauma Region G hospitals on Wednesday, the latest day for which data was available. The previous highest single-day number was set Tuesday at 821.
The portion of residents who have been fully vaccinated in East Texas counties continue to lag behind statewide numbers.
In Gregg County, 44.49 percent of people 12 and older had been fully vaccinated as of Thursday, while 75.11 percent of residents 65 and older were fully vaccinated.
In Smith County, 44.21 percent of people 12 and older had been fully vaccinated, according to the state, and 74.28 percent of residents 65 and older had been fully vaccinated.
Statewide, 58.42 percent of Texans age 12 and up had been vaccinated, and 77.63 percent of residents 65 and older had been vaccinated.
Kilgore High School’s 2021 Homecoming Parade rolled through downtown Thursday, marking the homecoming celebration before Friday’s football game.
The parade made its way through downtown, featuring KHS band students, Hi-Steppers, homecoming princesses and duchesses and the Bulldogs football team.
The Texas Veterans Commission’s Fund for Veterans’ Assistance presented over $1 million in grants to six organizations in East Texas for providing services to approximately 5,400 veterans on Wednesday.
The yearly grant presentation was held at Habitat for Humanity of Smith County ReStore in Tyler.
The six grant recipients consisted of Ark-Tex Council of Governments, Community Services of Northeast Texas, Inc., East Texas Council of Governments, Habitat for Humanity of Smith County, Northeast Texas Habitat for Humanity and Community Healthcore.
TVC commissioners approved these grant awards in May as part of an overall grant program providing 147 grants to organizations across Texas. The grants this year totaled $33.4 million, including over $1 million that was presented in East Texas.
Funding for these grants is generated primarily by veterans’ cash lottery tickets designated for veteran support. Other sources of funding for the grants come from donation options on drivers’ licenses, licenses to carry a handgun, outdoor recreation licenses for hunting and fishing and vehicle registrations.
Commissioner Kimberlee Shaneyfelt of the Texas Veterans Commission said she’s grateful to the Texas agencies that take care of veterans.
“I think that Texas is the best in the nation when taking care of our veterans. We couldn’t do what we do in the TVC if it wasn’t for all of these helping agencies that take care of our veterans,” Shaneyfelt said.
Shaneyfelt says the donation option when getting a driver’s license or hunting and fishing or handgun license actually makes an impact.
“It’s such a tiny thing, a one or two dollar effort. When you have many of those you can see the power of that with $33 million dollars in grants in 2021 and over $200 million dollars in the history of the program since 2009,” she said. “That small donation or that lottery ticket that you buy is powerful when it’s aggregated across the state of Texas.”
During the event, each organization in attendance received its check and detailed how the money helps out local veterans.
Habitat for Humanity of Smith County CEO Jack Wilson emphasized how the grants will help with their yearly critical home repairs.
“They have to make a choice between food or medicine and they can’t fix their home. There’s nowhere else in Smith County or other organizations that do critical repairs in their homes. Smith County Habitat is their safety net,” Wilson said.
Wilson said he has seen sewage damages in homes and he is happy Habitat can assist with 100 to 150 yearly critical repairs.
“I’ve walked into homes, I’ve seen holes in the floor and I’ve seen the roof falling in. When that happens and it’s not fixed, the rain comes in or mold gets created. We’ve seen people that actually sleep in other rooms because the rain comes in their bedrooms,” he said. “In one case the lady was sleeping on her porch. Or they sleep in their winter clothes.”
Wilson said Smith County Habitat has done 1,200 critical repairs for veterans, seniors and people with disabilities. He also emphasized this couldn’t be done without the grant tour from Texas Veterans Commission.
The assistance for veterans is divided up among five different categories: general assistance, housing for Texas heroes, veterans mental health grants, veterans treatment courts and veteran county service officers.
The grants also support a wide range of services, including emergency financial assistance, transportation, legal services, family support services, home modification, and rental and mortgage assistance.
The six grant recipients for the various categories were:
General Assistance grants
Ark-Tex Council of Governments — one grant for $5,000 to fund transportation services for veterans in Lamar County.
Community Services of Northeast Texas, Inc. – one grant for $300,000 to fund financial assistance for veterans, dependents, and surviving spouses in 15 counties across East Texas.
East Texas Council of Governments – one grant for $150,000 to fund transportation services and programs for veterans in 14 counties, including Gregg and Rusk.
Housing for Texas Heroes grants
Habitat for Humanity of Smith County – one grant for $150,000 to fund home modifications for veterans and surviving spouses in seven counties.
Northeast Texas Habitat for Humanity – one grant for $200,000 to fund home modifications for veterans in three counties, including Gregg.
Community Healthcore (Sabine Valley Regional Mental Health Center) – two grants for a total of $200,000:
Veterans in need of assistance can find the organizations providing help in their area and how to make contact at tvc.texas.gov/grants/assistance/.