Katy ISD coaches explain how volunteer trip to Ground Zero helped shape their future

Adam Winkler Image
Friday, September 10, 2021
Katy ISD coaches recall their volunteer trip to Ground Zero
When tragedy hit our nation, two leaders from Katy ISD answered the call to help fellow Americans as as they worked to recover what was left at Ground Zero.

KATY, Texas (KTRK) -- Joe Gibbons and Shannon Heston have been best friends since sixth grade. As pals often do, the two of them took a trip together during the holidays two decades ago. Only this trip wasn't a vacation.

"I just remember wanting to do something," Heston recalled.

Back in 2001, the two Katy ISD coaches, who were then in their mid-20s, spent their Thanksgiving break volunteering with the Salvation Army at Ground Zero.

"You get there and the gravity of the situation - you had to see to believe," Heston said. "It wasn't anything anybody could prepare for."

The coaches worked the overnight shift, passing out hot coffee and donating supplies to those working in the wreckage where the towers of the World Trade Center stood two and a half months prior.

Gibbons received a cross cut from debris from an iron worker at the scene.

"To be up there and have a feeling you were helping somebody else gain a little closure or gain a little understanding, it definitely felt good, and feels good now," Gibbons, who now teaches U.S. history, said.

As of now, both men are still coaches in Katy ISD. Heston is the head boys basketball coach at Seven Lakes High School and Gibbons is the head golf coach at Taylor High School. Their current students and athletes were not born when 9/11 happened, however, while some recollection is lost, both men gained some perspective - and a coaching tool.

"We can get through this situation, we can be better because of this," Heston said. "I've taken a lot of that resiliency and tried to apply it to my coaching career and things of that nature."

"Just the way we came together after 9/11," Gibbons noted. "Trying to show our patriotism and trying to show the world we're better than that."

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