Residents, first-responders and civic dignitaries gathered Sunday at the Santa Barbara Courthouse to honor and commemorate the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
The solemn ceremony in the Courthouse Sunken Garden recalled the thousands of lives that were lost 21 years ago to the day as a result of coordinated attacks on the World Trade Center Twin Towers in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.; and a thwarted assault on the U.S. Capitol.
On Sept. 11, 2001, terrorists hijacked four airliners for an unprecedented attack on the United States, using the aircraft as weapons of mass destruction by crashing them into buildings.
In addition to those on board the aircraft, thousands were killed in the buildings and on the ground, including hundreds of first-responders who mounted rescue efforts.
Particular poignant Sunday was a session entitled “We Will Never Forget,” in which the names and backgrounds of some of the nearly 3,000 people who died were read aloud.
Santa Barbara County firefighter Jay Mishinskie conducted the “Ringing of the Bells,” a traditional ceremony for those first responders who have perished on the job.
“When a firefighter had died in the line of duty, paying the supreme sacrifice, it was the mournful toll of the bell that announced a comrades’ passing,” explained Santa Barbara Fire Chief Chris Mailes. “We utilize these traditions as symbols, which reflect honor and respect on those who have given so much, and who have served so well.
“To symbolize the devotion that these brave souls had for their duty, a special signal of three rings, three times each, represents the end of our comrades’ duties, and that they wll be retuning to quarters.
“And so, to those who have selflessly given their lives for the good of their fellow man, their tasks completed, their duties well done. To our comrades, their last alarm. They are going home.”
Commemorative flags were presented to the county and the Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse.
Among the local officials addressing the crowd were Rep. Salud Carbajal, Santa Barbara County supervisors Joan Hartmann and Das Williams, District Attorney Joyce Dudley, and interim Santa Barbara Police Chief Marylinda Arroyo.
A multi-agency law enforcement color guard conducted a 21-gun salute and “Taps” was played by a lone bugler.
Two Santa Barbara County helicopters provided an aerial salute, conducting a low-level fly-over.
The gathering was co-sponsored by the Global Youth Court, the Superior Court of Santa Barbara, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office, the District Attorney’s Office, the county Board of Supervisors, the county Community Services Department, and the county Fire Chiefs Association.