In Brentwood, about 100 residents came together at Veterans Park for a ceremony led by Brentwood police officer Roger Wilson and his Police Explorers.
“I believe that what shocked us most that morning was not the unthinkably diabolical method used to attack us or the scope and magnitude of the attacks, but that it was our way of life that was attacked,” Wilson told the audience. “Our way of life that embraces freedom and democracy. Our way of life that rewards hard work and perseverance, and yet encourages selflessness and generosity. Our way of life that respects varying opinions in society, and still preserves the rights of all to express those opinions. Our way of life that allows us to worship freely and to look differently.”
Mayor Bob Taylor read a proclamation declaring that America is “a nation united by its love of freedom” and promised that this inaugural observation in Brentwood would be repeated each year in the future. The promise was met by enthusiastic applause from the audience, many of whom had only recently heard of the event that had been triggered a couple of weeks earlier by veteran and American Legion Rider Fran Curtis’ observation that a local event was needed.
The American flag was lowered to half-staff as a lone bugler played taps, after which a moment of silence was observed. During the otherwise quiet contemplation, a bell was rung five times, once for each of the World Trade Center towers, the Pentagon, those who died aboard Flight 93 in Pennsylvania, and a final time for the members of our armed forces who have lost their lives in the War on Terrorism.
“The most fitting memorial service we can truly leave to the innocent lives lost from our country on Sept. 11, 2001,” Wilson concluded, “is not etched somewhere in glass today, but etched in our hearts and souls as we continue to move forward in the pursuit of happiness and the defense of liberty for all.”
Across town at the East Contra Costa Historical Society’s annual barbecue fundraiser, a similar flag-lowering ceremony was conducted by members of the American Legion. Claudia Price was one of hundreds who gathered at the Byer-Nail Museum for the brief ceremony, and the celebration of American history that is the museum.
“Everyone knows what they were doing when 9/11 happened, but I don’t think everyone knows exactly why they feel the way they do about it,” Price said. “Here, all you have to do is walk around, see the exhibits and the displays, and you know what we’re protecting.”
Dirk Zeigler was among the Brentwood Rotary members on hand to do the barbecuing. His thoughts were on the children, including his, who did not experience that day 10 years ago. He’s hopeful that the 10th anniversary media coverage, which some considered overdone, doesn’t “desensitize” them or other Americans to what happened, and cause them to tune it out.
“I want them to know how horrible it was, and that there are reasons we are overseas,” he said. “Whether people agree with the war or not, it’s a travesty if they don’t support our troops.”
In Antioch, the East County Military Families and Friends (ECMFF) held its fifth annual Freedom Walk at Somersville Towne Center. About two hundred people joined the mile-and-a-half walk around the mall, waving flags and signs in response to the honking vehicles passing by. Music was provided by the Jessica Caylin Band, and vendor booths offered free commemorative T-shirts donated by USS-POSCO, a chance to write a thank-you message to troops overseas, and several other stations.
Police Chief Alan Cantando said that as he watched televised coverage of ceremonies held that morning back east, his thoughts turned to the first responders who perished after rushing in to a perilous, unprecedented situation, not knowing what might happen or even what they could do.
“They did the best they could, and they didn’t care (about the danger),” he said. “They were there to help the people in those buildings.
He also thought about those who joined the military in response to the attacks. Unlike first responders, who performed the duties required by their job, those who joined the military were not forced to serve their country.
“Those who enlisted did have a choice,” he said. “They knew the they were headed into harm’s way, yet they enlisted anyway. That is true heroism.”
ECMFF founder Josie Monaghan told the crowd that 9/11 had changed her life forever, inspiring her to spend all her time honoring and supporting the troops. After serving in Iraq, her son returned to become a police officer in the Bay Area, and she encouraged those present to put their patriotism into action as well. Don’t just copy and paste patriotic messages on social networks, she said, “Do something. Talk is cheap.”
Pfc. Louie McNabb, a National Guardsman, saw Sunday’s ceremony on his way home from training. Such observations motivate him to continue to be ready to serve – he expects to deploy to the war zone in the coming months.
“Sept. 11 changed my whole mentality,” he said. “I know something could happen at any time.”
The event also included the reading of an original poem by Officer W. Carter and remarks by Mayor Jim Davis.
“As the sun sets, and we give thanks for what we have, ask yourselves if you’ve done any good today,” Davis said. “In my heart, you all have. You are here.”