Keeping a tradition going – so the day will never be forgotten – Escalon fire, police and emergency services personnel gathered with dozens of community residents on Tuesday morning for a ceremony at the fire station on Coley Avenue.
The event marked the 17th anniversary of 9/11, the day in 2001 that hijacked planes hit the Twin Towers in New York City, the Pentagon and one crashed in a field in Pennsylvania.
Fire Chief Rick Mello welcomed the crowd for the ceremony, which began at 9:11 a.m., under a deep blue early autumn sky, noting this was the 12th year for the remembrance at the local station. Mello began the observance when he took over as chief in Escalon.
A brief chronological retelling of the events of Sept. 11, 2001 was given by Mello, listing times of the planes crashing into the towers, the Pentagon and Flight 93 going down in Pennsylvania, short of its intended terrorist target.
Mello told the crowd that 2,650 people were lost in the Twin Towers, 125 at the Pentagon, 266 on the airplanes, 37 Port Authority police officers, 23 New York City police officers and 343 New York City firefighters perished that day responding to the tragedy.
He also noted that the War on Terror “came home” when Escalon lost James Layton in 2009, killed in the line of duty while serving with the Navy. Mello also indicated that those standing behind him during the ceremony “are the ones that stand between you and harm’s way every day.”
Among those attending the ceremony this year were members of a law enforcement class taught by Escalon Level 1 Reserve Police Officer Bart Conner, the class coming in from Salida and joining in with the ranks of the local officers and first responders.
“We do a lot with a little,” Mello added of the local departments.
A bell ceremony, the ringing of a bell three times, with three rings each time, signifies the ‘end of watch’ for those that gave the ultimate sacrifice and was observed on Tuesday. A flag was then raised and lowered to half-staff and Pastor Arney Corbin offered a prayer and the crowd observed a moment of silence.
“We reflect; we honor and respect those who have served so well,” Mello said.
Representatives from Congressman Jeff Denham and Assemblyman Heath Flora’s offices were also on hand, giving a few remarks, and Couper Condit of Flora’s office presented a proclamation jointly to Mello and Escalon Police Chief Mike Borges, saluting their departments.
“Days like today, when we take time to remember, we need to remember our nation is not divided,” Condit added. “We are all Americans.”