SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The scene at Cal Expo was a somber one Monday as the bells of the Carillon Bell Tower rang out on the hour, singing out the tune to “Yankee Doodle.”
The American flag was at half-staff and those in the crowd were quiet and introspective, as they remembered the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States.
The memorial site, which debuted during the 2002 State Fair, was available for public viewing Monday, as all over the country people found ways to commemorate the event, half a decade after its occurrence.
Sacramento County Sheriff Mike Jones, who was viewing the memorial with his family, said he initially found out about the attacks on the radio while he was at work. While no one from his department was sent to Ground Zero, Jones acknowledges that there was an immediate increase in local security that day at vulnerable locations, such as the California State Capitol and Folsom Dam.
“The government has done an excellent job to increase safety, however it’s a collaborative effort,” Jones said, referring to the responsibility he feels that every American has in helping keep our country safe.
Cristiano Esswein, a student on campus at Sacramento State, said he was in class at Sierra College when his instructor came in and informed them of the first plane crashing into the World Trade Center.
“We were all shocked and scared,” Esswein recalled.
A few weeks later, Esswein, who is a native of Brazil, flew to his home country to visit family. He described the scene at airports as crazy, and said that security officials wanted to check everything.
“I was afraid they would bomb my plane,” he said, admitting his fears that the terrorists were planning to strike again, and that the government would be unable to prevent it.
Back at Cal Expo, Richard Cottrell, a man clad in a camouflage shirt, remarked that he has unwavering faith in the country’s ability to protect its citizens.
“I feel safe in the U.S. and I have confidence in the government,” he said. “They’re doing what they can.”
He stood next to a fountain topped with a gargantuan marble ball which rotates on the water. The sphere weighs more than 5,000 pounds and is engraved with all the names of the 3,071 victims whose lives were taken on Sept. 11, according to the website for the memorial.
Beyond the fountain lie 125,000 pounds of steel reinforcement, taken from the north tower of the World Trade Center. The beam on display is covered with stuffed animals, flowers and other gifts left by mourners. On the back lower left corner reads the inscription “God be with those who died.”
Elsewhere in the community, people found other ways to observe the anniversary. According to Capt. Jeff Lynch of the Sacramento Metropolitan Fire Department, recruits from Sacramento Metropolitan Fire Department, Sacramento City Fire Department, and Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department all met together in the morning to watch a documentary with footage from the events. Many other departments gathered around flagpoles to observe a few moments of silence, he said.
Lynch traveled to New York in the aftermath of Sept. 11 to council firefighters and police officers dealing with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder.
“I heard a lot of grief,” he remarked in a phone interview, referring to the friends and colleagues of the 343 firemen who gave their lives while saving others.
On a different note he also said that he “encouraged recruits not to forget the sacrifice” made by others on that day.