HERSHEY, Pa. (WHTM) — Michael Horrocks was the star quarterback at Hershey High School back in 1981. But he wasn’t your typical athlete. Randy McKillop was just a freshman when Horrocks was a senior.
“The first time I ever met Mike I was standing next to him and he said if you just stand right here next to me, they won’t pick on you, and that just always stuck with me,” McKillop said.
Doug Jones was a friend of Horrock’s and that doesn’t surprise him at all. “When I think about Michael Horrocks, that’s what I think about, how likeable of a guy he was,” Jones said.
“His nickname was rocks. He was hard as a rock and he was just a great guy, really really was specific to being alumni of Hershey, he was proud to go to Hershey,” McKillop said.
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Horrocks went on to play football for West Chester University, then joined the Marines where he learned to fly. As happens with high school friends, you lose touch after school. But the tragic events of September 11, 2001, would have everyone thinking about Horrocks once again.
“I walked in with a normal hello, good morning and get no reply from my mother and father, and I walk in and my father is standing there with his hands over his mouth, my mom standing there still, and my father just announces to me a plane has just gone into the twin towers,” McKillop said.
Then a second plane hit. “That’s the plane that everybody saw live on TV because the first plane had already hit and the cameras were on the World Trade Center and everybody saw the second plane hit, and that was Michael’s plane,” Jones said.
Michael Horrocks was the co-pilot of United Flight 175. “It’s a day where we lost 2,977 people and I knew one of those,” Jones said
“He wasn’t just there as a passenger, it was his job and I know he fought to the bitter end to not let that plane be taken over, I just know that’s the type of person he was,” McKillop said. He wanted to do something to honor Horrocks in his hometown.
“At times, it was difficult to swallow that when you talk to someone and they reminisce about 9/11 they do not realize we have a local fallen hero,” McKillop said.
He made it his mission to change that. It took some time, but on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, he and several alumni got a memorial placed on Hershey High’s football field. “I reflect on it quite often, not just every year but throughout the year,” McKillop said.
“It’s kind of tough for me sometimes to look at these photos,” Jones said. Jones also wants to make sure Horrocks’ story is always remembered. “One of our own Hershey Trojan students passed away that day, he walked the same hallways as you, he played on the same football field, same baseball field as you, I really try to bring it home for them and give them a sense of who Michael was.”
Every year on 9/11, he comes back to Hershey High to talk with students about Horrocks and the legacy he left behind. “Now 20 years later, none of these students were even born, it’s super important for us to make sure they never forget what happened that day and also to know a little bit about Michael,” Jones said.
One of Horrocks’ favorite movies was The Sandlot. For McKillop, the quote inscribed on “Rocks” memorial sums up the man he still looks up to. “Remember kid, there’s heroes and there’s legends. Heroes get remembered, but legends never die. Follow your heart kid and you’ll never go wrong.”
“Mike is not only a hero, he’s a legend and we want to make sure we keep that going, we want generations and generations to know the sacrifice Mike made on that fateful day in 2001,” McKillop said.