NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – September 11 was a true testament to the meaning of the Volunteer State. As the terror attacks were underway, many Tennessee Highway Patrol members were eager to head east and help, however, they were called to stay and protect the state.

“That was the most horrific day in our country’s history and here we had our fellow citizens, our fellow law enforcement brothers and sisters, and fire and EMS, just excuse me, but going into the gates of hell to go in and try to save American citizens,” THP Lieutenant Bill Miller said.

Lt. Miller remembers being on a family vacation the day the towers were struck, unable to jump in and help. He said he felt a helplessness many of his brothers and sisters in THP shared that day as they were unable to travel to New York.

“For me, it’s still very painful after 20 years because you had a feeling of hopelessness, a feeling of you want to be there to help. You know we would have ran on our hands and on our feet and we would’ve crawled, whatever we had to do to get to New York to help our fellow brothers, but we just couldn’t. And you didn’t know what to do, you didn’t know where the next punch was going to come from.”

Once Lt. Miller returned to work, THP’s job was to protect the state’s buildings, military forces, and infrastructure.

“The Tennessee and Arkansas bridge that crosses the Mississippi River, that was a top priority for the Tennessee Highway Patrol, as well as for the Arkansas State Police,” Lt. Miller recalled. “If that bridge was taken out, the response time for our military to move equipment would’ve been crippled; it would’ve been extremely damaging.”

Since that day, THP has been redesigned to work with the Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies to prevent an attack like 9/11 from happening again, especially in Tennessee.

“We have not forgotten that terrorists came to this land and traveled our highways, utilized facilities within our country to learn how to do what they did. So we have not forgotten and we will not forget,” Lt. Miller said. “Tennessee Highway Patrol is way more than working crashes and arresting drunks and getting impaired drivers off the highway…we are here to protect this state to the fullest of our ability. And I guarantee you that from our governor, from our commissioner, from our colonel, and every trooper in between is committed to doing just that.”

One huge takeaway THP wants to stress following the attacks is for people to always report suspicious activity to law enforcement, no matter how insignificant it might seem. Lt. Miller urges the public to let law enforcement decide whether or not to investigate.