September 11, 2013 (El Cajon) – With a vow to never forget the sacrifices made and the lives lost in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Cuyamaca College today held a ceremony and display of 2,977 small flags on the campus’ Grand Lawn, each representing a victim of the fateful day when two planes hit the Twin Towers in New York City and two other commandeered planes crashed into the Pentagon and a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
On a postcard-perfect summer morning with the San Miguel Fire Station’s massive 70-foot flag as a backdrop, the campus community and the public gathered to commemorate an event that even after a dozen years had spectators wiping away tears and speakers’ voices choking with emotion.
A few miles away, a similar ceremony took place at Grossmont College, where the morning began with the recitation of victims’ names interspersed with moments of silence corresponding with each horrifying incident that would forever leave an indelible mark on that historic day.
At both campuses, Wednesday was a day of personal remembrances, with speakers like La Mesa Police Chief Ed Aceves equating Sept. 11 to the death of John F. Kennedy and the bombing of Pearl Harbor for its historical significance, and sharing the heart-wrenching description a close friend and New York police officer gave of witnessing bodies falling to the pavement as victims jumped to their death from the burning towers.
Cal-Fire Battalion chief Jeff Lannon said it was with the idealistic hope to rescue survivors that he and fellow firefighters had traveled to New York, only to discover the extent of death and destruction resulting from the attack. At first feeling out of place, Lannon said it was when they began attending the funerals of New York firefighters that they realized the value of their presence to the families of their dead brethren.
Following the ceremony, yellow ribbons were distributed to the audience to tie around the flags that had been placed into the law the day before by Cuyamaca College students and interns from state Sen. Joel Anderson’s office.
At Grossmont College, Dr. Irving “Jake” Jacoby, an emergency room doctor who led a medical team from San Diego to Ground Zero, urged students to “remember and honor those who were attacked and killed on that Day of Enormity.” Sheriff’s Sgt. Joel Wigand, who traveled to New York to participate in law enforcement’s memorial honor guard a month after the attacks, described how smoke still filled the air from smoldering debris.
“The amount of destruction was beyond description,” Wigand said. “None of the pictures seen in the newspaper or on television can adequately describe the scene. This is a sacred place, a place of honor for all of those who died at the hands of terrorists.”
Closing the remembrance ceremony was the presentation of the Spirit of 9/11 Award to Grossmont College chemistry Professor Jeffrey Lehman in recognition of his emergency response work with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Cave & Technical Rescue Team and the San Diego- based Disaster Medical Assistance Team CA-4, recently deployed in support of federal relief efforts after Hurricane Sandy.
“For me, the legacy of 9-11 is not one of death and destruction, but a shining example of America’s continued devotion to the common good,” Lehman said.