The overcast gray sky and chilly breeze matched the somber mood of the small crowd who gathered this morning to remember and honor those who lost their lives in the horrific terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001.
I covered the simple ceremony held at Martinez’ downtown memorial erected to honor the men and women who were killed when terrorists crashed airlines into New York, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field. The site near the Amtrak train station includes mangled steel beam segments from the World Trade Center.
The Martinez Chamber of Commerce organized the event.
Facing a uniformed formation of Martinez police officers, the hometown congressman, Rep. George Miller, spoke of how that morning a decade ago began as an ordinary day across America as people readied their children for school and headed to work.
“But it became a day when ordinary people did extraordinary things,” Miller said. “We must never forget.”
Martinez Mayor Rob Schroder talked of that surreal morning a decade ago when “we couldn’t believe what we were seeing on the television.”
Martinez Councilman Mark Ross abandoned his customary humor and read a serious poem he wrote for the occasion.
“In the name only. Infamy, no Icaraus. Humans weaponized,” Ross recited.
A young woman sang the national anthem a cappella except for the unsolicited train whistles that accompanied her. Two clean-faced teenage girls wearing plain white shirts and black slacks played taps on trumpets.
But the morning’s most poignant moment came when tearful Army veteran and retired bus driver Gary Jones sang the last haunting note of “Amazing Grace,” then bent his tall frame and hugged Martinez Police Chief Gary Peterson.
The men clung to each other for a moment.
And for those few seconds, everyone seemed to cling together.
It was why they came.
Afterwards, Jones couldn’t stop his tears.
He remembers that morning. The Desert Storm veteran was driving bus for County Connection and he had parked his rig outside the Martinez train station very near where he stood today. A woman in the station had heard the news about the attack on the World Trade Center and collapsed onto the floor; her brother was believed to be in the building.
“We comforted her the best we could but we didn’t have a lot of information,” Jones recalled. “No one did.”
Click through to read Rep. George Miller’s reflections on 9-11:
This morning in Martinez, I will join a 10th anniversary remembrance of the attacks of 9/11. As we mark this solemn occasion, so many Americans still grieve for the loved ones they lost, and our nation continues to grapple with how to live in a post-9/11 world and the decisions that were made in the years following the attacks.
But one thing remains clear – ten years ago, Americans came together despite our differences to face a great challenge.
Our spirit, which the terrorists sought to crush along with our buildings, was strengthened through adversity. America is always at its best when we work together to solve problems.
Today, we face an unemployment crisis that poses one of the greatest threats ever to our nation’s long-term prosperity. And last week, President Obama was absolutely right to ask whether we will once again work together. Congress must put partisanship aside, as we did ten years ago, and seize this moment to help get Americans back to work and our economy moving forward.
This crisis requires us again to work together, despite our differences. Only then will America be on the path to greatness once again.
Congressman George Miller