By Jim Tortolano
“Where were you,” as the song goes, “when the world stop turning on that September day?” The 15th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks on the United States observed Sunday afternoon in the Huntington Beach was punctuated with pomp, music, goosebumps and teary eyes.
A crowd of several hundred people assembled in the amphitheater in the Civic Center to pay tribute to the heroes and victims of the “day the world stopped turning” and to witness the dedication of the memorial, “We Will Never Forget.”
The design echoes all aspects of the tragedy. Black granite columns at the back recall the Twin Towers brought low; the base is five-sided in remembrance of the attack on the Pentagon; ringing the base are small memorials to each of the four airliners that crashed in the worst terror incident in modern American history.
At the center is twisted steel girder and coupling salvaged from the south tower of the World Trade Center.
Mayor Jim Katapodis spoke of his reaction at the time. “This was an act of war: I said it soon as I saw it. We have to remember, we always say that freedom isn’t free and we live in a great country.
“I went to Ground Zero in New York City after the attack, and returned to see the memorial. I don’t think there are words to describe the impact the memorial had on me. If you’ve been there, you can’t describe it. But what moves me right now are those two pieces of steel there. I feel like those people we lost are with us now, because of that piece of steel.”
The event featured the posting of a flag that had flown over the World Trade Center, the singing of “The Star Spangled Banner” and “God Bless America” by the Academy of Performing Arts choir at Huntington Beach High School and a flyover by helicopters from the Huntington Beach and Anaheim police departments and the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.
Addresses were made by master of ceremonies Scott O’Hanlon, Captain Kevin Devlin of the Port Authority of New York and others. The mournful but uplifting notes of “Amazing Grace” played on bagpipes closed out the event.
The memorial was five years in the making. Volunteers raised $200,000 to design and build it and it’s now open to the public, which includes many people who were not alive when the events of 9/11 happened.
“We Will Never Forget,” then, becomes a hope for the future as well as a tribute to the past.
Categories: Huntington Beach