First responders, civic officials and community members will come together on Saturday to commemorate victims and mark the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Although two decades have passed since the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon near Washington, D.C., they still weigh heavy on the minds of many people, local first responders said.
“It’s very important that we always remember and honor those who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001. I always say that we never forget,” Beverly Hills Fire Department Chief Greg Barton said. “We want to make sure that every year, the city has some sort of ceremony to remember the victims, not only all of the firefighters and police officers affected, but the citizens who lost their lives.”
“It’s an opportunity to reflect on the magnitude of that day and how it changed America forever,” Beverly Hills Fire Department Deputy Chief Joseph Matsch added. “I get emotional just thinking about it. Even though it happened 20 years ago, those memories come to the surface.”
Barton and Matsch will be among personnel from the Beverly Hills fire and police departments who will gather at the city’s 9/11 Memorial Garden at 445 N. Rexford Drive from 5:30 to 6 p.m. on Sept. 11 for an annual commemoration ceremony. Beverly Hills Mayor Robert Wunderlich and members of the Beverly Hills City Council will also participate, along with bagpipers and a color guard. Matsch said the memorial, which opened in 2011 next to BHFD’s Fire Station 1 and Beverly Hills City Hall, is an important city landmark. It includes a piece of twisted steel from the North Tower of the World Trade Center and serves as a year-round reminder of those who perished and the sacrifices made by first responders.
“When I see someone sitting at the site, I like to walk up and ask them how they were affected. Many people lost a family member or are remembering someone,” Matsch said. “Some don’t realize it’s an actual piece of the tower. It’s truly healing for people on the West Coast, giving them a connection to the East Coast.”
The ceremony in Beverly Hills is open to the public and community members are encouraged to attend. The public is also invited to join firefighters and police personnel at 6:45 a.m. on Sept. 11 in front of Fire Station 1 next to the memorial garden for a ceremony that includes a moment of silence and traditional bell ringing.
“As someone born and raised in New York City, I still feel a connection with 9/11 and the thousands of people that went to work that day only to never return,” Wunderlich said. “Our annual ceremony in Beverly Hills at our memorial site pays fitting tribute to honor those we lost who we will never forget.”
The tragedy of Sept. 11 also continues to weigh heavy on personnel at the Los Angeles County Fire Department, which serves the city of West Hollywood. Although the city is not holding a formal ceremony, wreaths and flags will be placed at 9 a.m. on Sept. 11 at the Sal Guarriello Veterans’ Memorial, located at Santa Monica Boulevard and Holloway Drive. People can visit throughout the day. Flags at all West Hollywood city buildings will also be flown at half-staff on Sept. 11.
“Every year on 9/11, it hits us all similarly, but being [that] it’s the 20th anniversary amplifies it,” L.A. County Fire Department spokesman Jonathan Matheny said. “We lost 343 [NYFD] firefighters on that day. If you ask any firefighter the significance of that number, every firefighter I know will tell you immediately. It is a number forever stitched in our minds, and we feel that sorrow every year on 9/11.”
Capt. David Ball, of Los Angeles County Fire Station 7 in West Hollywood, added that personnel plan to stop by the memorial on Saturday in a show of solidarity.
“On Sept. 11, we always remember those who lost their lives and honor the firefighters,” Ball said. “We never forget the spirit and integrity of those who came together to help.”
The Los Angeles Fire Department is holding a virtual Sept. 11 remembrance ceremony this year that will be available for viewing at 10 a.m. on the department’s social media platforms, spokesman Nicholas Prange said.
“We are doing it virtually this year because of the pandemic,” he added. “But it’s important to remember the victims and firefighters and the sacrifices they made.”
The First-In Fire Foundation also encourages the public to reflect on the sacrifices of Sept. 11 at a memorial in the park surrounding the La Brea Tar Pits. Miracle Mile Civic Coalition co-founder and First-In Fire Foundation president Lyn MacEwen Cohen said a grove of trees was planted in 2004 in the park along Sixth Street in remembrance of those who lost their lives. A stone marker and plaque is also located near the trees, and Cohen plans to place American flags at the site in commemoration.
“Every year, I make sure I go and place flags and red, white and blue ribbons there,” Cohen added. “I think people should remember. It’s not just the 20th year. For us, we remember every year, all year long.”
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