Few, if any, students in Colusa County schools were alive 18 years ago on the day 19 hijackers used airplanes as weapons of destruction to kill nearly 3,000 people.
But like the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack has become a time to mourn and remember those killed, to honor those who died helping others, and to inspire patriotism and unity throughout the community.
On that day, al-Qaeda terrorists flew two Boeing 767 airplanes into the north and south towers of the World Trade Center, followed shortly by a third plane into the Pentagon and a fourth into a field in rural Pennsylvania before it could make its destination, likely the White House.
“On this day, the world stopped spinning for many Americans,” said Melissa Ramirez, Maxwell FFA president, at one of several ceremonies held at local schools on Sept. 11. “Their lives changed forever. Eighteen years later, we still recognize this as one of the most devastating terrorists attacks in our history.”
The annual 9/11 ceremony was one of a number of remembrances at Colusa County schools.
At Colusa High School, students gathered outside on Sept. 11 to reflect on the tragedy.
The ceremony included members of the Colusa Veterans of Foreign Wars, Colusa Fire Department, Sacramento River Fire Protection District, California Highway Patrol, Colusa County Sheriff’s Office, emergency medical technicians, and members of the Army, Navy, and Air Force.
At that event, VFW Post No. 2441 member and retired Superior Court Judge, John H. Tiernan, spoke to students so that they could better understand what happened nearly two decades ago.
At the Maxwell ceremony, Colusa County Sheriff’s Deputy Trenton Beck said he was just a sophomore in high school 9/11 but that single event changed the trajectory of his life.
Beck served in the U.S. Army before attending and graduating from the Butte College Law Enforcement Academy.
“It was due to this event that I joined,” he said. “I wanted to protect our country and serve our country.”
Despite that many of those killed on 9/11 were first responders and others who rushed into the World Trade Center to help save lives, recruitment for the military doubled in the aftermath of the attack.
“We are one nation,” Beck said. “We stand together and we protect each other.”
While students don’t have a personal memory of 9/11, they understand the importance of commemorating the anniversary, mostly as a way to honor those killed, including the 343 New York firefighters who died at the World Trade Center, and hundreds more that have died in the years since from illnesses linked to the attack.
“They are my heroes,” said 13-year-old Ryan Dennis, an eighth grader at Maxwell Junior High, who attended the ceremony. “They died trying to save others.”
And for those whose family members served or are serving in the military or as first responders, 9/11 hits even closer to home.
Dennis’ grandfather was an officer with the California Highway Patrol. Emma Hendrix’s father and uncle served in the military.
“It could easily have been our families,” said Hendrix, 13, referring to those lost on 9/11 and since. ■