“No day shall erase you from the memory of time,” was the repeated message to dozens of Menifee residents Wednesday, Sept. 11, attending the city’s 9/11 Remembrance Ceremony for those that died in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in 2001.
U.S. Navy Cmdr. Nico Melendez was the featured speaker at the ceremony held at Menifee’s Central Park and reminded residents to always remember the 2,996 people who died.
Paper luminaries marked with the names of those who died in the attacks were placed on both sides of the walkways throughout the park. Each one was made by Menifee school children. Residents were encouraged to take one at the end of the ceremony to remember the named victim and to sign the city’s 9/11 commemorative book.
Before the opening ceremonies at 6:30 p.m., Cal Fire Riverside’s Truck No. 76 crew and other firefighters arrived to hoist up a huge American flag from the city’s ladder truck. Submarina offered those attending a free sandwich, bag of chips and a bottle of water.
The opening prayer was given by Kasey Crawford from Elevation Church, followed by the presentation of the colors by Paloma Valley High School Navy JROTC. The Pledge of Allegiance was recited before Menifee Mayor Bill Zimmerman took to the stand, welcoming the crowd.
“Glad you are all here today. It is an opportunity for remembrance,” Zimmerman said. “We were thinking about Sept. 11, 2001. They were cowardly acts to terrorism, and it challenged our concept of peace and security and it forces us to come to terms with reality that there is an enemy that is not bound by one place, or by one nation.”
Councilmembers Lesa Sobek and Dean Deines briefly spoke of their memories of that day.
They were followed by Melendez who recalled the day and the days before the 9/11 attacks when he was a civilian contractor working in Arlington, Virginia. The day of the attacks he said he was watching TV, seeing the news on the World Trade Center buildings being attacked, when they heard an explosion from their Arlington office and looked out the window to see smoke rising from the direction of the Pentagon. He was supposed to go to the Pentagon that morning but was delayed by the news broadcast.
After 9/11, Melendez said he spent the next 18 years working with the Navy to beef up the nation’s airport security and in Afghanistan.
“What I really want to talk about is the phrase ‘Never Forget,’” Melendez said.
He voiced his concern that many of today’s 17- and 18-year-olds know nothing about what happened that day or how it felt by those witnessing the terrible event.
He urged those in the audience to continue to commemorate those who died and those that risk their lives today, like the other “heroes” on that day.
“I will never, ever forget that I am an American,” Melendez said. “Proud to be an American and proud to be an officer in the United States Navy. I am proud to be here in Menifee. I am proud to call you friends in the community. And I am proud to stand before you tonight and tell you, ‘Let’s never forget! Not tomorrow. Not the next day. Not next month. Not next year. Let’s always remember what happened that day and let it guide us in the months and years ahead.’”
Chloe Kaas took the stage to sing, “God Bless America.”
Deputy Roger Doyle of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department thanked those who continue to protect American and called on all to “Never Forget!”
A trio of students, including Josh Hermen and Korynn and Eden Steenhoek, sang “America the Beautiful.”
A Cal Fire Truck 76 representative encouraged everyone to help each other and to remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice during 9/11.
The Rev. Jeff Johnson, assistance pastor of Impact Church, gave the final prayer, and Anahi Rodriquez sang “God Bless America” and bagpiper and veteran Joel M. Danel concluded with “Amazing Grace” in honor of the victims of 9/11.
Tony Ault can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org