Officials promote unity on 20th anniversary of attacks
Dozens of Santa Barbara officials, law enforcement personnel and community members gathered at the Sunken Gardens on Saturday in a remembrance ceremony that honored the nearly 3,000 individuals who were killed in the Sept. 11, 2011 attacks.
Saturday marked 20 years since a group of Islamic militants associated with Al-Qaeda hijacked four planes and carried out attacks against the United States. Two planes crashed into the Twin Towers in New York City, one crashed into the Pentagon and the other was downed in Shanksville, Pen. after passengers on board stormed the cockpit to prevent another attack.
Santa Barbara was one of 60 locations chosen to hold a special event on Saturday, known as the 9/11 Flag of Honor Across America Memorial. The Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse (CADA) Teen Court program was chosen to lead this national remembrance project locally, which featured the reading of 50 names of first responders and victims who died on 9/11 during Saturday’s ceremony.
Teens involved in CADA also presented a flag to Santa Barbara officials with the names of every victim and first responder who died in the attacks. The flag will be kept inside the Santa Barbara Courthouse.
During Saturday’s event, multiple law enforcement and government officials from Santa Barbara offered reflections on the tragedy, speaking messages of unity and remembrance. Each speaker recalled the tragic loss of life that occurred due to terrorist attacks, vowing to never forget the stories of those who perished in New York, Washington D.C. and Pennsylvania.
Among those who spoke was U.S. Rep. Salud Carbajal, D-Santa Barbara. He said the 9/11 attacks left an “indelible mark on the American consciousness,” reflecting on the lives lost in the attacks and in the War on Terror. With the U.S. recently completing its withdrawal from Afghanistan, Rep. Carbajal said Americans should never forget the lives lost in that war, including those of the 13 service members who were killed last month in a suicide bombing outside the Kabul airport.
“With the war in Afghanistan now over and with this chapter of our history concluded, we can never forget those we lost on 9/11 and in the preceding war,” Rep. Carbajal said. “Today, we remember the attack and think of the thousands of lives that were lost and the millions that were forever changed.”
“I’m also reminded of the resoluteness and resilience we all share as Americans,” he continued. “As tragic as that day was, it’s also what brought us together as a united country. And I still believe that there’s more that unites us than divides us.”
During her remarks, District Attorney Joyce Dudley told the story of her son, Sam Dudley, who in the aftermath of 9/11, asked to go to Ground Zero on Christmas Day in 2001 to meet the first responders and hear their stories. He wrote about this experience in an article published in the News-Press in January 2002 titled “3,000 deaths, 10,000 miracles,” which readers can find in our archives.
Inspired by the bravery of the first responders who gave their all to help evacuate the Twin Towers, Mr. Dudley set out to become a Santa Barbara County Firefighter, Ms. Dudley shared. That dream eventually came true, and he continues to serve with the department to this day.
“It was the second proudest moment of his life, the first being meeting his wife,” Ms. Dudley said. She told the crowd that her son was part of the response effort during the deadly Montecito Mudslides and joined the fire department’s peer support group to support his fellow firefighters.
“To this day, he continues to fight fires but also continues to be there for first responders who have been traumatized by helping all of you,” Ms. Dudley said. “All those experiences are part of the 10,000 miracles. People grew from Sept. 11 and became extraordinary people.”
Multiple officials during Saturday’s event took time to recognize the first responders who lost their lives while responding to the attack. Sheriff Bill Brown from the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office recounted the lives lost during his remarks, remembering the 37 officers who died from the Port Authority of New York and the New Jersey Police Department, the 23 officers who died from the New York City Police Department and the eight New York State investigators who died in the attack. He also noted that a total of 343 firefighters from the New York City Fire Department died within a span of 28 minutes on 9/11.
Sept. 11 marked the bloodiest day on American soil since the Battle of Antietam in the Civil War, the Sheriff shared, adding that while the anniversary of the attacks is one filled with great sorrow and tragedy, “it is also one of triumph,” he said.
“The terrorists had hoped to bring the American people to our knees. Instead, they brought us to our feet,” the sheriff said. “When America was attacked, there instantly wasn’t any distinction between the East Coast and the West Coast, north or south, black or white, rich or poor, truck driver or scholar, or any other differentiation between Americans. The attacks united us and … strengthened us, they made us resolute.”
“Rather than terrorize us, the attacks renewed our collective love of America and all the good that it stands for. The September 11 attacks were examples of the worst in human nature, but they also brought out the very best in humankind.”
Among the dozens of community members in attendance Saturday was Susan Hartzler, a Santa Barbara resident who lost her best friend, Berry Berenson Perkins, in the 9/11 attacks. Ms. Perkins was aboard Flight 11, which crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. She was 53.
“We lost an angel here on earth,” Ms. Hartzler told the News-Press. “She was the most exquisite person in the world. She just loved everybody, and she was put on earth to give love. I feel blessed that I got to spend 20 years with her as one of her best friends.”
Ms. Hartzler said every year, Sept. 11 is a very hard day for her, but she always makes an effort to attend a memorial ceremony in honor of her friend’s memory. She has since written a book, “I’m Not Single, I Have a Dog,” which she dedicated to her angel, Berry Berenson Perkins.