OAKHURST – Fourteen years after the tragic events of 9/11, Sierra Tel continues to honor those who died, those who responded, and those who have served their country in emergency services and in all branches of the armed forces, both at home and abroad.
As the flag flew at half-staff over the Oakhurst Community Park on Friday, Sept. 11, Yosemite High School student Cristian Mendoza performed “Attention to Colors” on the bugle, and the crowd stood for the Posting of Colors and Flag Raising by the Yosemite High School Cadet Corps led by Commandant Captain Ellen Petersen and Assistant Commandant Sergeant Major David Archer.
Following the Pledge of Allegiance led by John Andrews, the National Anthem and “Thank You Soldiers” was performed by the Yosemite High School Chamber Singers, led by Christel Biasel.
A solemn invocation by Chaplain Richard Lamontagne was followed by a performance by the Yosemite High School Advanced Percussion Group, and remarks by District 5 Supervisor Tom Wheeler, AmVets representative Dave Wolin, and statements on behalf Assemblyman Frank Bigelow, Congressman Tom McClintock and Senator Tom Berryhill.
Sierra Tel’s Laura Norman then reminded the crowd of some of the sobering statistics from that day.
“Fourteen years have passed since the global tragedies that took place on September 11, 2001. It is important that we be reminded of just how tragic that day was, so as to ensure that we never forget those who served and who lost their lives or loved ones that day. On this fourteenth anniversary of those attacks, let us remember through these powerful numbers:
- Time the towers were hit: 8:46 a.m. and 9:02 a.m.
- Time the burning towers stood: 56 minutes and 102 minutes.
- Time they took to fall: 12 seconds.
- Total number killed in attacks: 2,819
- Number of firefighters and paramedics killed: 343
- Bodies found “intact”: 289
- Body parts found: 19,858
- Number of families who got no remains: 1,717
- Number of people who lost a spouse or partner in the attacks: 1,609
- Estimated number of children who lost a parent: 3,051
“I am proud to know that the importance of patriotism, and of these statistics, has not been forgotten in the United States of America or in Oakhurst, California.”
The featured speaker was California Army National Guard Reserve LTC Colonel David Hall, who graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in June 1995 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering. His career has primarily been in the Aviation field, and he is currently the Executive Officer for the 40th Combat Aviation Brigade.
“You have to wonder… why are we here today… why did we say ‘Never forget,'” said LTC. Hall. “Some may tell you ‘never forget those that died.’ Personally, I do not believe that the rally cry was intended for us to continue to shed tears for every name that was lost, as tragic as that day was. Nor do I think that rally cry was meant to solely focus on the sacrifices of the hero response that day; they have all been honored. I believe that rally cry was meant as a reminder – we are not invincible and the world is a different and dangerous place and we need to take prudent action to ensure that something of that magnitude does not ever occur on US soil again.”
“Never forget 9/11. Never forget what brought us to that day. Never forget it’s our responsibility to prevent another day like that from occurring.
“Today we will not mourn, we will not sing praises of lost heroes. We will stand in resolve to live our lives in a way that prevents another 9/11 from happening on U.S. soil. Those who lost their lives on 9/11 would want us to do that. Never forget.”
Sierra Tel Business Development Manager and Army veteran Dan Rule invited all those who serve to come forward and be recognized.
“Our freedom has cost many lives, and these veterans know first hand about the sacrifices the men and women of our military have made,” said Rule. “We thank all veterans and active military for their courage and dedication in keeping America the land of the free.”
Special recognition was given to those who have served in the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard, Merchant Marines and the military reserves, and also representatives from Sierra Ambulance, California Highway Patrol, Cal Fire, US Forest Service, Madera County Sheriff’s Department, Search & Rescue and Citizens on Patrol, members of the Eastern Madera County Emergency Preparedness Committee, Disabled American Veterans Volunteer Drivers, American Red Cross personnel and members of the Madera County Fire Department.
“These volunteers, paid professionals, and service men and women have obtained special training in order to perform their duties,” said Rule. “Often this is done on personal time and at their own expense. Look here and you will see an accumulation of decades of experience in rendering help to those in need. Many of these citizens have worn several uniforms in their lifetime and continue to watch over our communities.”