man speaking at podium
Michael Baladjanian, director at Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems, welcomes more than 150 residents gathered during a memorial for victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

Santa Barbara County first responders joined the public in Goleta Tuesday morning to remember victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.

The memorial hosted by Raytheon was one of many observances across the United States on the 17th anniversary of the attacks, which killed nearly 3,000 Americans and destroyed the World Trade Center’s twin towers.

“We honor all of the men and women who were so brave and all their work during that tragic time,” Michael Baladjanian, director at Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems, told more than 150 people as he opened the ceremony. “I was in New York City about three months after the event, and it was a crazy place to be.”

The ceremony also recognized agencies, volunteers and individuals who gave their time and efforts during Santa Barbara County’s twin disasters — the Thomas fire in December and the Jan. 9 Montecito debris flow.

“We also honor all of our local first responders and various community agencies who jumped into action, and years before that,” Baladjanian said. “It’s amazing to see all of the things they have to do to keep our community safe.”

The service welcomed several of the county’s first responder and volunteer organizations including the American Heart Association, The American Red Cross, the California Highway Patrol, California Hope 805, the County of Santa Barbara, the county’s Department of Behavioral Wellness, Direct Relief, First 5 Santa Barbara County, Foodbank of Santa Barbara County, Habitat for Humanity, National Disaster Search Dog Foundation, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department, the Santa Barbara County Fire Department, UC Santa Barbara, United Way of Santa Barbara County, Unity Shoppe and Vandenberg Air Force Base.

No members of local first responder agencies chose to speak during the ceremony. 

Tuesday’s event was led by Paul Overstreet, program manager at Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems, and featured brief remarks by Pat Bowman, a naval aviator on Sept. 11, and Kurt Russell, disaster program manager for The American Red Cross of the Pacific Coast.

Bowman recognized the family members of first responders who serve their communities and the sacrifices that they make each day.

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Santa Barbara County first responders attend a memorial ceremony Tuesday.  (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

“My prayers and my heart think of them, and the challenges,” Bowman said.

Russell talked about working with the Red Cross on community service outreach and family services in New York in the days after the tragedy.

He described his experience working with the Disaster Assistance Response Team on the ground in New York City at the crash site after Sept. 11.

“I also was able to be on the pile and help with the search and rescue, or recovery of those loved ones,” Russell said. “As soon as my shift was over with The American Red Cross, I would go back to Ground Zero and spend another six-to-eight hour shift searching for loved ones.”

He said it took about three weeks to think of what to say Tuesday, and told a story about helping a man he met randomly on the street in October of 2001. 

Russell recalled walking toward his apartment in Brooklyn when he saw a “well dressed” man sitting on the curb, drinking out of a paper bag and crying. Russell approached the man and asked what was going on and if the man needed help.

“The gentleman sighed, and told me his daughter was born just two weeks ago and he lost his livelihood when the towers went down,” Russell said. “He was a janitor in tower No.1, and he told me his story, which was a sad story, and I gave him my card.”

The next day, the man called and Russell gave him information about client caseworkers with the Red Cross.

“Also in that conversation I found out that there were hundreds of individuals within the community that were without jobs and didn’t know what to do,” Russell said.

He said the Red Cross opened a community service center within Brooklyn area to help people trying to find new jobs, apartments and mental health help. 

“The outcome was positive for that one event,” Russell said. “I was honored to help those folks.”

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at bholland@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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Raytheon holds a memorial ceremony Tuesday remembering the victims and responders of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks and honoring people who helped respond to the Thomas Fire and Jan. 9 Montecito debris flow.  (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

Brooke Holland, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @NoozhawkNews

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at bholland@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.