The strength and unity of Americans were on display on Saturday as cities across Los Angeles County commemorated the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks.
The tributes began early, especially at LAX where a moment of silence was held at 5:46 a.m. Saturday to commemorate the time that American Airlines Flight 11, which departed Boston Logan International Airport for LAX, hit the World Trade Center’s North Tower — not long before a separate plane bound for LAX hit the World Trade Center’s South Tower at 6:03 a.m. Pacific time. The third flight bound for LAX, American Airlines Flight 77, departed from Washington Dulles International Airport before hitting the Pentagon at 6:37 a.m. California time.
“While New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia bore the brunt of this horrific day two decades ago, Los Angeles was also deeply impacted by the loss of the passengers and crew on the three planes that were originally heading to LAX that morning,” said Justin Erbacci, CEO of Los Angeles World Airports, the city agency that manages LAX.
A second moment of silence and a color guard ceremony was held at LAX at 8:43 a.m. inside the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Federal Inspection Station at Tom Bradley International Airport.
Two decades later. the scenes still evoke emotional responses, evident at memorials across the region this weekend.
Torrance residents were so dedicated to showing their support that some arose before the sun to honor the victims, survivors, families and first responders of the attacks at 5:46 a.m. in front of City Hall.
“Among the passengers on that flight was John Wenckus, a 46-year-old Torrance resident returning home from a visit with his family,” Torrance Mayor Pat Furey said. Wenckus was traveling from Boston back to Southern California with a friend, John Hofer of Long Beach, from his family’s annual golf tournament in Cape Cod.
“I didn’t know John,” Furey added. “But like so many folks, he came to the Golden State and Torrance to follow his dreams.”
“One can only wonder what great things he could have accomplished,” Furey said before leaders also took a moment to reflect on the first responders and the civilian volunteers who leaped into action — and eventually gave their lives as they attempted to clear rubble and search for survivors.
“I will never forget the silence when the first plane struck the tower,” said Torrance Police Chief Jeremiah Hart. “Firefighters climbed up stairs they would never descend, and yet they moved on still.”
“Police officers running through smoke even though they couldn’t see and they moved on still,” he added. “Citizens moving over rubble, unable to breath and yet they moved on still.”
Their sacrifice, Hart said, calls us to action today.
Local first responders concluded the event by ringing a bell, typically meant to signal the start of the morning shift, but today, it was to honor their fallen brothers and sisters.
“It is customary for the last bell be sounded for our brothers and sisters who have paid the supreme sacrifice,” said Torrance Fire Chief Martin Serna. “For having selflessly given their lives for their fellow man, their task completed, their duty done.”
Band members of the fire and police departments accompanied the bell ringing with a performance of “Amazing Grace.”
Out on the Peninsula, the city of Palos Verdes Estates hosted its own sunrise service in front of its City Hall. Local officials offered words of comfort and patriotism and Peninsula High School freshman Logan Gorsuch performed a musical tribute on the bagpipes.
Along the coast in Signal Hill, local secular and faith-based leaders gathered alongside first-responders and community members for the city’s “Celebration of Peace and Unity,” which sought to honor all of those who have been affected by the Sept. 11 attacks.
The morning began with poems, recitations and an honor guard presentation before Signal Hill Mayor Edward Wilson took the podium to address the dozens of attendees who weathered a sun-scorched morning to pay their respects.
“For the survivors of that September day, and the families of those we lost — wherever you are today — it is a great honor to be with you on this day, which I know is still difficult,” Wilson said.
“We honor the first responders who did not think about the severity of the danger. At the time, all they knew was that there was an emergency and people — their fellow citizens — needed help,” Wilson said, describing their actions as a true example of the American spirit.
Saturday was the first time Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia had visited Signal Hill’s Unity Monument, which faces east, overlooking Cal State Long Beach’s familiar blue Walter Pyramid, homes and mountains, to honor the fallen heroes.
“I was mentioning to the team how beautiful it is,” Garcia said during a speech, “to look out and be pensive about what an awful, awful day that was — yet one that still inspires us as we move forward.”
Following prayers from Venerable Jared Kai Bo, a Buddhist monk, and Imam Tarek Mohammed, who spoke on the tenets of Islam, Rev. Jane Gould of St. Luke’s Episcopalian Church took the podium to tell the story of Christopher Newton, a St. Luke’s parishioner who lived in Long Beach before he died in the Pentagon attack two weeks after starting a new job.
Living just north of Boston Logan international Airport at the time, Gould remembers the images of smoke and fire quite clearly. The Long Beach reverend also recalls peers who stood in long lines to give blood at Boston-area hospitals.
“We couldn’t reach my sister in New York who worked on the 52nd story of a high-rise. We couldn’t reach my sister in Washington D.C. who worked at the State Department,” Gould said. “At the end of the day my sisters were safe, but Christopher Newton and thousands of others were not.”
As Tibetan Peace Flags waved in the wind above the attendees who witnessed the release of twenty doves — one for each year passed since the attack — Gould added from the city on a hill, “We must focus on peace, unity and service because 20 years ago today, the 911 attacks unleashed fear, discrimination and violence.”
Prior to the conclusion of the morning memorial, Wilson said, “Let’s make 9/11 a national holiday.”
Meanwhile, a few miles up the road, 200 flags waved in Paramount where the city created a field of small American banners under the Hay Tree at Paramount Boulevard. and Civic Center Drive.
“This field of flags honors the memory of those lost on that awful day two decades ago and those lost since then in the subsequent War on Terror,” Mayor Brenda Olmos said, mentioning her fellow City Council members encourage residents to stop by and take a flag for themselves in remembrance of the families and individuals who were directly affected by 9/11.
In Malibu, nearly 3,000 flags waved on the campus of Pepperdine University in an annual tribute to those who died in the attacks. Additional flags are in place honoring each country that lost a citizen.
Rosemead hosted its annual memorial ceremony with a flag raising and wreath-laying adjacent to the city’s familiar Sept. 11 Memorial.
The city’s famed artwork is a public sculpture, “Reflect,” by artist Heath Satow, of two hands created with wingspread dove cutouts that hold a large I-beam from the World Trade Center.
In Pasadena, members of the city fire and police departments gathered at the Tournament of Roses’ Tournament House for a sunrise flag ceremony.
Bob Miller, President of the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association was joined by Pasadena Police Chief John Perez, Pasadena Fire Chief Chad Augustin and the Blair High School Junior ROTC Cadets and First Sergeant Ben Hicks.
“Today we commend the heroic actions and courage of the rescue workers, firefighters, police officers and military personal who worked tirelessly at Ground Zero,” said Miller. “By dawn’s early light, we raise the American flag — a symbol of reflection, a symbol of respect and a symbol of the nation mourning together.”
Not far away, a wreath-laying ceremony coincided with the rededication of the Pasadena Senior Center’s flagpole, which was vandalized in February 2020, but reinstalled this weekend to honor of all who perished 20 years ago.
For a year and a half, veterans and others have inquired about why the American flag has not been raised at the Pasadena Senior Center on Veterans Day, Memorial Day and the Fourth of July, according to Senior Center officials, who now hope the rededication event puts residents’ minds at ease.
In downtown Los Angeles, thousands of volunteers gathered at the Convention Center to pack an estimated 200,000 meals for the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank. The event is in recognition of 9/11 being designated a National Day of Service. Organizers of the event said similar events are being held in 10 cities, with more than 2.5 million meals being packed for distribution to people in need nationwide.
The L.A. Fire Department, however, opted to cancel its annual in-person memorial ceremonies at fire stations due to the COVID-19 pandemic, although it welcomed the public to visit its 9/11 Memorial Fountain in front of Fire Station 88 at 5101 N. Sepulveda Blvd. in Sherman Oaks at any time to pay respects. The LAFD planned a virtual remembrance event at 7 p.m., accessible at https://lafdheroes.com.
Culver City’s police and fire departments also held a remembrance ceremony after a moment of silence was held at 6:59 a.m., marking the time the South Tower of the World Trade Center collapsed.
The 6th- through 12th-graders of Sun Valley Magnet School teacher Stephen Franklin’s leadership program hosted the final day of their public display of the multimedia experience they created, part memorial and part museum dedicated to the events of Sept. 11, 2001, and their impact on American society.
Included are scale models of the World Trade Center towers, a mock-up of an airport terminal, and a 15-foot tall American flag, where the students have hand-written the names of the nearly 3,000 victims of the terror attacks.
The display will be open 9 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. Saturday. The school is located at 7330 Bakman Ave., Sun Valley.
The Ronald Reagan Foundation and Institute also planned a 9/11 commemoration at the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley on Saturday evening.