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Observance Remembers 9-11 Tragedy
Assemblymember Kristin Olsen was the guest speaker for Thursdays 9-11 gathering in neighboring Escalon. She represents Oakdale, Riverbank and Escalon in the 12th Assembly District. - photo by Marg Jackson/The Leader

It’s a day those who lived through will never forget – Sept. 11, 2001.

Terrorists took over planes and crashed two into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, one flew in to the Pentagon and another, destination uncertain, went down in a field in Pennsylvania when passengers fought back against the terrorists and forced the plane down short of its intended target.

In commemoration of those tragic events, local Assemblymember Kristin Olsen was the keynote speaker at a ceremony hosted in neighboring Escalon, at 9:11 a.m. on Thursday, Sept. 11.

“I’m sure we all remember where we were,” Olsen said of how that day is seared into the memory banks of Americans. “We had never seen such terror on American soil. But what we also saw was such unity and patriotism, built in all areas of this country. We set aside our differences.”

Olsen said the very attacks that were meant to destroy the country instead brought it together in a show of unrivaled patriotism.

On Sept. 11 – 13 years ago, the U. S. came under attack, the first plane striking the North Tower at 8:46 a.m. (Eastern Standard Time). Records show that there were a total of 2,650 people that died in the towers, with 125 lost at the Pentagon, and 266 on the planes.

First responders were also among the casualties, with 37 Port Authority officers, 23 New York City police officers and 343 New York City firefighters lost that day and, since then, another 2,500 rescue workers have fallen to cancer, contracted while working on rescue operations at Ground Zero. Another 6,802 U.S. soldiers have been lost in the continuing War on Terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Among those in attendance for the ceremony was Escalon resident Brent Layton, who lost his son James in Afghanistan in September. 2009. He was a naval corpsman and was killed while tending to wounded on the battlefield.

“Five years, sometimes it seems like yesterday,” Layton said following the ceremony. “There’s no time frame for us.”

Layton said the loss is felt every day, but he has become an activist on behalf of military personnel, working to make sure they are well taken care of, abroad and at home. Also attending was Mike Anderson, a veteran’s affairs liaison for Congressman Jeff Denham. Anderson lost his son, a Marine, in Iraq in 2004 so this year marks the 10th anniversary of his loss.

“We don’t want to be Gold Stars,” Layton said of joining the ranks of families who have lost children to war. “But this is the hand we were dealt. We are a pretty tight knit group.”

A bell ringing, the raising of the flag and lowering it to half-staff and a moment of silence were also observed as part of the local 9-11 ceremony.

Olsen went on to quote the late President Ronald Reagan, who indicated that “Freedom is not free. It must be protected, it must be fought for.”

Olsen said we must keep his words close to our collective heart, and support the men and women of the armed forces that put those words into action.