By Brandon Evans
Originally published Sunday, September 11, 2011
Everyday people are presented opportunities to make a difference in someone else’s life.
State Trooper Adolfo Patterson, 34, of Lake Bridgeport, lives by that belief. On the one year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, he addressed a gathering of civil servants at a football field in Dilley, Texas.
“We were there to honor the civil servants,” Patterson said. “The police department, fire department, highway patrol, border patrol, medics, were all there. We had it at the football field. It was packed. The whole county came out. I don’t think Dilley ever had anything that big before.”
At the time Patterson was a youth pastor with the Assembly of God Church in Dilley. He was born and raised in Dilley, a small South Texas town where a bulk of the residents live below the poverty line – a place where faith can play a key role in a young person’s life. That is one reason Patterson took the opportunity to move there with his wife, Shanda, in August 2001. He never thought that the position and the events of 9/11 would lead him to become a state trooper in Wise County.
“The whole point of it was to honor civil servants – those who gave their lives trying to help and save people,” Patterson said. “I gave it the title ‘Given your God-given opportunity.'”
He based his message on a story from the book of Esther, 4:14.
“She had the opportunity to stand up for her people and save their lives and she did,” he said. “I used that story and talked about the events of 9/11. And I talked about Todd Beamer on Flight 93.
“Women screamed, ‘Oh my, God! Help us! Jesus, help us!’ I believe in that moment God presented Todd and others on the plane an opportunity. And Todd responded to that opportunity with the words ‘Let’s roll.'”
Beamer was one of the passengers on Flight 93 credited with forcing the plane down into a rural, Pennsylvania field. Terrorists had planned on crashing the hijacked plane into the White House.
“What makes a hero? What makes someone stand up and save lives?” he asked the crowd that day. “What makes a firefighter run into the World Trade Center to save lives? It’s someone who uses their God-given opportunity. Every single one of us, it doesn’t matter if you are a firefighter or a trooper, is presented with these opportunities. Whatever you are, there are times in our lives when God presents us with an opportunity to stand up and do what’s right. And if you do that, there are lives that are going to be changed. Lives are going to be saved. And there are lives that will be affected by standing up and doing what you need to do.
“Every day we have the opportunity to change lives. I dedicated that message to all our civil servants in the county, the people interested every day in changing and saving lives.”
On that day Patterson used his opportunity to affect those in attendance.
He used to eat breakfast at a restaurant called Garcia’s Cafe in Dilley. Local state troopers also ate there a lot. A couple of days after the service Patterson went inside and some state troopers asked him if he ever thought about becoming a state trooper. He told them no.
“I guess the troopers were touched by the message and were moved by it,” Patterson said. “I wasn’t interested. But a couple days later, I went in and they called me over again. And asked, ‘Have you thought about being a trooper?’
“This kept happening again and again every two or three days. And I eventually got upset about it and said. ‘Guys, I’d appreciate it if you just left me alone. I’m not interested.'”
A strange feeling struck him when he walked away from the table. He felt as if God was trying to tell him something, trying to present him with an opportunity.
“I had a weird feeling,” Patterson said. “I didn’t have peace inside until I decided to do it.”
“The highway patrol sergeant stopped by my church and asked again if I’d thought about it. I said I had. He brought me back an application later that day.”
One year later Patterson had completed his training in Austin and was patrolling the highways and rural roads of Wise County.
“9/11 is how I got here,” he said.
With a background in the military and the ministry, Patterson seems like someone who would be particularly moved by the events of 9/11.
He joined the U.S. Army in 1995, just weeks after he graduated high school. He spent five years in active duty and three in reserve. He was part of a combat tank unit with 13 Bravo in Fort Sill, Okla.
“When I got to Fort Sill, I was the only soldier there,” Patterson said. “Everyone else was just getting ready to return from the first Gulf War.
“At the time I joined there was nothing going on. Guys were still coming back from the Gulf War. It was quiet. We got sent to a couple small things, but not anything big.”
He entered the reserves in 2000 and became a chaplain assistant and instructor.
“At times I got upset I got out of active service,” Patterson said. “A year after I got out my unit went to Afghanistan. There were times I felt like I wish I would have stayed in so I could do something more for my country.”
But he’s been able to take advantage of his opportunities here.
“I’ve been able to serve my country by being in the Army for eight years.,” Patterson said. “I’ve served God by being in the Church and in day-to-day living. And now I’m serving the people of the state of Texas.
“In this job, I have way more opportunity to reach people than in a church. In a church, you only reach people that come to you. In this job, it is wide open. I can’t tell you how many crashes I’ve been to where someone lost a loved one. And I prayed for them and helped them in a time of need rather than just being the guy investigating the scene.
“Telling someone, ‘I’m going to be praying for you. I’m sorry about what happened,’ means a lot to people.”
The message he gave to the crowd in Dilley on Sept. 11, 2002, is still true today.
“In the face of danger, no matter what the cost is, you have to do what is right,” he said. “Even though some of those people in 9/11 lost their lives, it counted and it meant something. And today, we can do the same thing. You don’t have to have a uniform. You don’t have to be a civil servant.”
You just have to take advantage of “God-given opportunities.”
Look for more of WCMessenger.com’s special 9/11 tribute at www.wcmessenger.com/911.