By DONNA BETH WEILENMAN
Martinez officials, residents and visitors paused Friday morning to remember the nearly 3,000 people who died 14 years ago when hijackers commandeered four planes and launched the first major foreign terrorist attack upon United States soil since Pearl Harbor.
In a brief but poignant ceremony, Mayor Rob Schroder and Police Chief Manjit Sappal spoke at the Martinez 9/11 Memorial at the Martinez Amtrak Station. Their lectern was flanked by pieces of girders salvaged from the destroyed Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City.
Schroder remembered his own disbelief at what he saw on live telecasts of the assault, calling it “unthinkable horror,” and adding: “It will always be etched in my mind.”
The mayor also spoke of hope, reminding those attending that “in the aftermath, the American people became one people like I never saw before.”
Sappal joined others in mourning the lost, “a mother, a father, a brother, a sister” to those for whom the tragedy was a personal, rather than public, event.
He recalled the public safety personnel – the firefighters and police who rushed up the stairwells to save the Twin Tower workers, visitors and children, only to die when the towers crumbled to the ground in flames and dust.
The attacks Sept. 11, 2001, first were interpreted as a tragic accident when a commercial airliner crashed into one of the towers. Those watching or covering the first crash quickly realized it was no accident when a second plane plowed into the other tower, and reports came in that a third plane had crashed into the Pentagon.
Passengers aboard the fourth plane overpowered their hijackers, who had turned the San Francisco-bound plane back east toward Washington, intending to crash it into the White House or the Capitol. But all passengers and crew aboard United Airlines Flight 93 also perished when that plane instead slammed into an open field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
The Martinez ceremony began at 8 a.m. Friday when Contra Costa Fire District Capt. Paul Silva, Engineer Brian Nannini and Firefighter Gerard Garcia presented a folded American flag to Martinez Police Detective Ryan Baillie and Officer Kevin Busciglio, who raised the flag on the memorial’s flagpole, then lowered it to half staff.
Among those attending Friday’s ceremony were Vice Mayor Mark Ross, who was among those instrumental in obtaining pieces of the Twin Towers for the Martinez memorial; Councilmembers AnaMarie Avila Farias and Lara DeLaney; Martinez Chamber of Commerce Sales and Marketing Manager Rachel Unpingco and Honor Guard representatives of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1351 and American Legion Post 29.