Under the shroud of a massive American flag, public officials and residents of Burbank gathered on the steps of City Hall to honor the memory and sacrifices of those who died in the attacks of 11 Sep 2001.
Burbank Mayor Jess Talamantes led the ceremony, which included remarks by Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA, 29th District), Fire Chief Ray Krakowski, Police Chief Scott LaChasse, and an emotional personal story from Sister Regina of the Saint Finbar Parish.
Following an invocation by Burbank Police Chaplin, Detective Peter Eirich, and the national anthem, Rep. Schiff opened the ceremony remembering his own experiences in Washington D.C. at the time American Airlines Flight 77 hit the Pentagon.
“I was leaving my apartment on Capitol Hill when the first plane hit the Trade Center. I remember confusion in the streets as people fluttered away in confusion. It was only moments later when we could hear the explosion at the Pentagon, the secondary explosion as part of the building collapsed. And little did any of us know around the capitol that day what was going on over the skies of Pennsylvania,” recalled Schiff.
“When I think of the extraordinary bravery of that day, I am left with a sense of awe, about the police, the firefighters, about the ordinary civilians. And above everything else I think about the unity of that day, as we all came together as a country.”
Schiff then presented Mayor Talamantes and the City of Burbank an American flag which had flown over the capitol on 11 September 2005.
Living in New York City near the 59th Street Bridge during the attack, Sister Regina from the Finbar Parish shared an emotional description of her own experiences on 11 September.
Following the first airplane strike, there was considerable confusion in the area. Nobody was really clear what had happened, and during a brief period everything went on hold. Then, “the second plane turned around” explained Sister Regina. “That’s when it all began. Terror that we have never known in this land.”
Sister Regina continued to describe a period of time when everybody was “dumbfounded.” For a long period there was nothing but silence, and people could not bring themselves to talk with each other.
“Then the sound began,” said Sister Regina. “The only sound we heard for nearly 50 hours was the sirens. The sirens were near the East River, one fire engine after the other. Fire engines from Connecticut, from other New England states, they were all united.”
Everybody was concerned about the people who may have been in the towers. “Who did we know? Who was in the building? Did they get out? Don’t use the telephone in case a hospital might try to call.” Sister Regina further recalled the horror every New Yorker experienced those days, but ended her testimonial on a positive note, suggesting that a huge social network embraced not only New York, but the entire country, with the knowledge “we were all in this together.”
Burbank Police Chief LaChasse honored all first responders providing statistics on those who had given the ultimate sacrifice in the performance of their duties, including 343 fire fighters, 37 Port Authority police officers, and 23 New York police officers. LaChasse also reminded that more than 90,000 others continue to suffer physical and emotional damage resulting from injuries incurred during the attack and following the attack while struggling to find survivors and recover those who died.
Fire Chief Krakowski provided thoughts on remembering those who died. He mentioned spending time at area schools over the past week, talking about 9/11 with students. Many students know they should remember those who died, and remember the dates, but have never really learned what happened. Those young people will “have to learn (about 9/11) so they do not forget” said Krakowski.
Krakowski then explained the significance of the fire community tradition called the “Tolling of Bells.“ The idea that bells were used in the old days, in fire departments, to signal various activities during the course of a shift.
A special meaning was given to the end of a shift or event, where a fire bell as rung 5 times to indicate the end of duties and return to quarters.
This symbolism was extended to fire fighters who died in the line of duty. To this day, when a fire fighter has died, the fire bell is rung 5 times, “a mournful toll of a bell that solemnly announced a comrade’s passing.”
And the Burbank Fire Department rang their bell 5 times following a closing benediction by Det. Eirich, and a sad, anguished bagpipe rendition of Amazing Grace, the ceremony came to an end. Fire fighters gently recovered the giant flag looking over City Hall, and attendees walked away slowly, recalling their own memories of 9/11.