FRESNO — Fresno State’s national and state flags will fly at half-staff on Sept. 11, honoring the 2,996 people killed — including two Fresno State alumni — and over 6,000 injured in terrorist attacks on the United States 20 years ago.
U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Otis Vincent Tolbert Jr., a former Bulldogs football player, was killed the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, when the passenger plane American Airlines Flight 77 was crashed into the Pentagon where he worked.
Shortly after, Mr. Todd Beamer died when another jet, United Airlines Flight 93 that was being steered toward Washington, D.C., crashed into a field in Pennsylvania after its passengers, led by Beamer and his now famous “Let’s roll” battle cry, tried to overcome the hijackers.
Earlier that day, American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175, were crashed into the North and South towers of the World Trade Center complex in New York City.
The campus flags that will be posted at half-staff in honor of Patriot Day and National Day of Service and Remembrance are located at the Save Mart Center, the Rose Garden near the Veterans Monument and the Thomas Building, and at athletics venues where events are hosted by Fresno State.
That includes Bulldog Stadium, where the Fresno State football team will host Cal Poly at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 11. During the game, the University will honor military and first responders with a variety of in-game recognitions and tributes.
All active duty and veteran military members and first responders can purchase tickets for just $10. Fans can donate a $10 ticket to military and first responders , and Fresno State will match their donations, and the entire first row of Section 25 at Bulldog Stadium will be left empty as a tribute to America’s fallen heroes. The Bulldogs will also wear custom uniform elements to pay tribute.
This marks the first time since 2001 that Fresno State has had a home game on Sept. 11. In 2001, the nationally-ranked Bulldogs were scheduled to host Utah State on Sept. 15 — four days after the attacks — but the game was postponed until Dec. 1, 2001.
As part of its grand-opening weekend, the new Kennel Marketplace store at The Square at Campus Pointe will honor first responders from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sept. 11. Several law enforcement organizations and the Fresno Fire Department will be onsite on the north side parking lot of the store.
Lt. Cmdr. Tolbert and Mr. Beamer are also honored at two locations on campus:
In the Peace Garden, two Canary Island pine trees were planted in their memory on the first anniversary of the attack in 2002. Provided courtesy of Tree Fresno, they are located on the south side (by the Henry Madden Library) with markers noting their sacrifice.
On the north side of the Save Mart Center, two markers were dedicated to the men on Oct. 27, 2004.
Lt. Cmdr. Tolbert, a Lemoore High School graduate who played for the Bulldogs from 1980-83, has also been honored at Fresno State football games. A seven-mile stretch of State Route 198 from Lemoore High to the Lemoore Naval Air Station has been designated the Otis Vincent Tolbert Memorial Highway. Lt. Cmdr. Tolbert is interred at Arlington National Cemetery, near the Pentagon.
Mr. Beamer, who was a physical therapy major at Fresno State in 1987-88, was a walk-on with the Bulldogs baseball team. As Flight 93 turned back toward the nation’s capital, he and several passengers attempted to subdue the hijackers and the aircraft crashed into a field in Stonycreek Township near Shanksville, PA.
Prior to the counterattack, Mr. Beamer used an onboard telephone to call an operator and together they recited “The Lord’s Prayer” and the 23rd Psalm. At the end of the 13-minute conversation, he put down the headset, but left the line open. The last words the operator heard were Mr. Beamer’s: “God help me. Jesus help me. Are you ready guys? Let’s roll!”
Todd Beamer Park at Maple and Plymouth avenues in northeast Fresno also memorializes Mr. Beamer, and a 2006 Universal Pictures film, “United 93,” portrays the tragedy.