OCEANSIDE — Twenty years ago on Sept. 11, 2001, nearly 3,000 people died after four hijacked planes took down the World Trade Center twin towers in New York, slammed into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and crashed near Shanksville, Penn.
The worst foreign attack on American soil shook the world and permanently changed life in the United States.
For the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks, the Oceanside Police and Fire departments hosted hundreds at the Junior Seau Amphitheater in Oceanside on Sept. 11 to remember those who lost their lives and to honor survivors.
The somber event began at the Oceanside Civic Center for a ceremonial “last mile” walk to The Strand then continued to the amphitheater. The event also including playing the national anthem and “Taps,” the nation’s song of remembrance.
Several individuals spoke during the event with a simple but powerful theme: “Never forget.”
“It is a day none of us have forgotten,” said Congressman Mike Levin (D-CA). “It tore our heartstrings. We will never forget the lives lost.”
Col. Jon Black served 24 years in the Marines and is currently stationed with the security battalion at Camp Pendleton. Black’s speech centered on Americans coming together regardless of their race, gender, creed, religion, sexual orientation, as they did on that fateful day 20 years ago.
Black said the aftermath of 9/11 led to servicemen and servicewomen losing their lives during prolonged wars in the Middle East while noting others returned home from suffering psychological impacts and post-traumatic stress disorder.
County Supervisor Jim Desmond, Oceanside Mayor Esther Sanchez and Oceanside Councilman Chris Rodriguez also spoke during the event, each detailing the personal impacts of 9/11.
Desmond, a retired Delta Airlines pilot, recalled getting a call from his captain during a stop in Honolulu. All domestic flights were grounded, a first in American aviation history, and international flights from Asia were rerouted to Hawaii.
Desmond said once they were able to fly again, there was nervous energy and a surreal experience in the airport. Regardless, they were able to safely return to the mainland and get those families back home.
“I could’ve been in that cockpit,” Desmond said. “Never take your rights and freedoms for granted.”
Sanchez detailed how her daughter was supposed to be at work at the World Trade Center but called in sick — the first time Sanchez’s daughter ever called out from work, the mayor recalled.
Also, two of her friends were working either at the World Trade Center or nearby. Sanchez said one’s train ran late, thus missing the planes slamming into the towers, while the other friend was able to escape through a nearby building and run to safety.
“It was a really desperate day for me to find out if they were safe,” Sanchez added. “At first, I thought it was some freak accident, then realizing it was our generation’s Pearl Harbor.”
Rodriguez, meanwhile, said 9/11 was his call to join the U.S. Marine Corps, where he served several combat tours and lost three friends during the Battle of Fallujah in Iraq.
Fallujah is considered one of the fiercest battles during the years-long war, and Rodriguez said a tattoo on his forearm honors his fallen friends.
“We need strong men to stand on that wall,” Rodriguez said.