Twenty years later, remembering the nearly 3,000 people who lost their lives, America will never forget the somber morning of September 11, 2001.
That was the day terrorists commandeered airplanes, and the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City tragically came down.
To remember the fallen, a brief ceremony took place at 6:45 a.m. Saturday morning in front of South Pasadena City Hall. South Pasadena Police Chief Brian Solinsky, Mayor Pro Tem Michael Cacciotti, and councilmembers Evelyn Zneimer and Jack Donovan paid tribute, vowing the country will never forget them.
Among those who lost their lives during the horrific attacks was 1984 South Pasadena High graduate Sue Kim Hanson, her husband, Peter, and their 2 ½-year-old daughter, Christine. Leaving from Boston’s Logan Airport, the three boarded United Airlines Flight 175 to Los Angeles with intentions of going to Disneyland and visiting Hanson’s relatives.
They never reached their destination.
The early morning ceremony in South Pasadena opened with a moment of silence. On behalf of Mayor Diana Mahmud, Cacciotti thanked the small gathering for their attendance to commemorate the tragic events that unfolded, while recognizing the “bravery and courage displayed by public safety or emergency medical people and others who responded including search and rescue dogs,” he said. Cacciotti concluded his remarks at the end of the ceremony with a prayer.
Donovan, poignantly said, “We have set aside some time today to commemorate the 20th anniversary,” noting it was important to pay tribute to those who took actions to save lives. “We don’t often have the opportunity to acknowledge and say thank you to first responders. But today is that day. We often take them for granted. Today is the day to say thank you. Thank you for being there. Thank you, for us. And thank you from all of us. God bless our first responders and God bless America.”
Solinsky, near the end of the 45-minute event, added: “You know, I’ve been fortunate over the years to speak with members of our Greatest Generation, our World War II era vets and their families, and in talking with them they’ve always reminisced and compared this to Pearl Harbor. They always remember exactly where they were when news first broke and remember what they were doing.”
Earlier in the week Solinsky found himself reminiscing with others at City Hall, “And much like Pearl Harbor, we were telling stories about where we were, when we first heard the news, what we were doing” (on September 11, 2011). And I think it just goes to show that how much this event changed our lives forever. And I’m sure every one of you out there can remember the moment you heard about the attacks on the Twin Towers. And it’s something that we’ll never forget.”
The lives lost included 343 American firefighters and 72 police officers. “Even today it still continues to take its toll,” continued Solinsky, joined around him by local firefighters and police officers. “All of us here are first responders. We’re all public servants. I know each one of you personally, and I know we would run to that danger, and go to help our fellow man. So I would like to say thank you to the council members as well for your service and in your partnership.”
Solinsky then talked about the youngest victim, Christine Hanson, just getting started in life before it abruptly ended. “Christine specifically, she lived in Massachusetts with her parents, she loved to smile and giggle. Just a typical little girl and she was innocent when she took her first airplane ride.”
Her life was cut short, noted the police chief.
“Christine would be 22 years old right now and she’d be graduating from college, beginning her career, maybe going to graduate school,” said Solinsky. “But she was never able to experience her first day of school Girl Scouts, dances, graduation or prom. And although she was only two, her little life made a difference. It made a difference to me and many others.”
At the close of his message, he added: Life is a precious gift. I ask of you here to take a moment to reflect on your own life and the many blessings you have. It’s easy to overlook the simple things that we don’t notice every day until it’s gone. But most importantly, take an extra moment today to tell a loved one how much they mean to you. You can never tell someone enough nor do you know when the opportunity may be your last.”
Zneimer said, “Twenty years ago our nation was shocked” in her comments, speaking warmly during the ceremony about Hanson, her husband Peter, and their daughter Christine as she retraced the day for those in the audience.
At 9:03 a.m. on September 11, 2001 armed men belonging to Osama bin Laden’s terror network Al-Qaeda hijacked the plane, later crashing it into the south side of the South Tower of the World Trade Center between the 78th and 84th floors. The plane exploded on impact killing all its 65 passengers, including the five hijackers and nine crew members.
The world watched in disbelief as the plane that included Hanson and her family was the second to crash into the World Trade Center as the image of the plane’s impact was captured live on television and broadcast the terror.
On the 16th anniversary of 9/11, former South Pasadena Mayor Mike Ten held a remembrance service in the courtyard at South Pasadena City Hall, dedicating a plaque in memory of Sue Kim Hanson and her family.
September 11th will be forever remembered by a series of coordinated attacks against the United States by the Islamic terrorist group Al-Qaeda. Along with the almost 3,000 who perished in the U.S., more than 6,000 were injured. Additional individuals died of cancer and respiratory diseases in the years following the incident.
In New York City on business that day was Kevin Danni, a former South Pasadena resident, among those who escaped from the South Tower, getting out only 12 minutes before it came down.
Not long after graduating from Occidental College, Danni was hired by Morgan Stanley and sent to New York City for a training session. When trouble ensued, he headed for the exit. As Danni was making his way down a stairway from the 61st floor, firefighters were going up in a rescue mode, telling Danni and his co-workers they were going to be all right. Little did they know, explained Danni, recalling his story during a September 11th remembrance event one year in the courtyard at South Pasadena City Hall, the firefighters would not get out, succumbing instead.
“I saw heroism at its best,” he told the gathering. “I’m one of the lucky ones, not because I survived, but because of what I witnessed that day from those in uniform – police and firefighters.”
Zneimer in her remarks Saturday also talked about what Danni had to endure, surviving the ordeal, and thanked the men and women in uniform, firefighters, police officers and first responders for making the ultimate sacrifice.
On the same page was then President George Bush, saying: “One of the worst days in America’s history saw some of the bravest acts in Americans’ history. We’ll always honor the heroes of 9/11. And here at this hallowed place, we pledge that we will never forget their sacrifice.”
The three attack sites were at the World Trade Center in New York City – North and South Towers – the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. and Stonycreek Township near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
President Joe Biden visited all three sites on Saturday and joined Barack Obama at Ground Zero in New York. Biden served for two terms as vice-president under Obama, the former president.
“We didn’t crumble after 9/11,” said Biden when he was VP. “We’re America. Americans will never, ever stand down. We endure. We overcome. We own the finish line.”
Marking the 20-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks, among the many memorials taking place Saturday were held in New York, Washington, Pennsylvania and throughout the country.
The American flag in front of South Pasadena City Hall has been lowered to half-mast recognizing the lives lost.
“The attacks of September 11th were intended to break our spirit. Instead we have emerged stronger and more unified,” said former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. “We feel renewed devotion to the principles of political, economic and religious freedom, the rule of law and respect for human life. We are more determined than ever to live our lives in freedom.”
Important 9/11 Timeline
8:46:40 Eastern Time: Flight 11 crashes into the north face of the North Tower (1 WTC) of the World Trade Center, between floors 93 and 99. The aircraft enters the tower intact.
9:03:00 Eastern Time: Flight 175 crashes into the south face of the South Tower (2 WTC) of the World Trade Center, between floors 77 and 85. Parts of the plane, including the starboard engine, leave the building from its east and north sides, falling to the ground six blocks away.
9:37:46 Eastern Time: Flight 77 crashes into the western side of The Pentagon and starts a violent fire.
10:03:11 Eastern Time: Flight 93 is crashed by its hijackers as a result of fighting in the cockpit 80 miles southeast of Pittsburgh in Somerset County, Pennsylvania. Later reports indicate that passengers had learned about the World Trade Center and Pentagon crashes and were resisting the hijackers. The 9/11 Commission believed that Flight 93’s target was either the United States Capitol building or the White House in Washington, D.C.
Wikipedia contributed to the timeline.