Tragedy Brings Out the Best of the American Spirit

Twenty-five years ago … 10 years ago… it has been a time of remembrance here in the Fourth District and across our nation.

Last Wednesday, we held a memorial ceremony to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Cerritos Air Disaster. I was the Mayor of Cerritos at the time, and the horrific images and life-changing experiences of that day will stay with me forever.

Now, we are only a few days away from the 10th Anniversary of the September 11th attacks. The memories of 9/11, like those of the Cerritos Air Disaster, will remain with me forever.

We all remember exactly where we were and what we were doing when we heard the news.

I was on my way to the airport, headed to Washington D.C. for one of our Board of Supervisors’ lobbying trips. Two of my colleagues were already there, and former Supervisor Yvonne Burke and I were supposed to be on the same plane.

Then we got the call. New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania were under attack.  Our flight was canceled and we immediately headed to the County’s Emergency Operations Center, where we spent the rest of the day coordinating with emergency officials around Los Angeles County.  The following day, we were scheduled to be in meetings at the Pentagon, not too far from where Flight 77 struck.

In the aftermath of the attacks, we grieved and we felt the loss of our fellow Americans … average citizens and first responders. The pain and suffering, and the sense of vulnerability, was unlike anything most Americans had ever felt.

The shock of 9/11 changed America and the world forever. We moved into a post 9/11 world, with a global war on terror, new airport security measures and increased travel restrictions.  Our nation adjusted its focus and our daily lives changed.

While the immediate response to the Cerritos Air Disaster and 9/11 was the necessary clean-up and efforts to return to some sense of normalcy, for the families and loved ones of those who died, normal life was forever altered.  In the years that have passed, many of us have experienced weddings, graduations, and the births of grandchildren.  We grieve for those who never experienced such joy, and recognize the on-going pain for those left behind, unable to share these special memories with those most important to them.

While there are many heroes of 9/11, over the course of the last 10 years, thousands of Americans have sacrificed their lives because of what occurred that day.  While we go about our daily routines, we cannot forget our troops, who put themselves in harm’s way around the world, fighting to preserve our freedom and ensure we never again face the horrors of that day.

The experience of tragedy in our local community and our country has shown us the best of the American spirit.  While we may argue about how to tackle the challenges we face, we always come together in times of crisis as one nation. As we remember 9/11, I encourage you to share that spirit of America by flying our great flag.

May we never forget the lives we lost, the victim’s families and loved ones, and the men and women who fight to keep us safe.

God bless our troops, and God bless the United States of America.