Recapturing a Bond Forged by Tragedy

The finished Sept. 11 memorial will be dedicated Sunday, the 10th anniversary of the attack.

Laguna marks the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks of 2001 with solemnity, patriotism and a search for wisdom.

The public is invited to an 11 a.m. ceremony dedicating “Semper Memento,” at Heisler Park’s Monument Point on Sunday, Sept. 11. A reflecting globe centered in a pentagonal base supports salvaged scraps of the destroyed World Trade Center in an elegant shrine by artist Jorg Dubin. An American flag that flew over Ground Zero will be presented during Sunday’s ceremony.

“I am thrilled that there is a memorial, because it is so easy to forget,” said Cheri David, an El Morro Elementary teacher whose older sister, Pamela Gaff, lost her life when United Airlines flight 175 crashed into the south tower of the World Trade Center, striking between the 77th and 85th floors.

When the first plane struck the north tower Pamela called first her husband and then her parents to let them know that she was okay, David said. Her sister, chief controller for AON and working on the 102nd floor of the south tower, was on the phone with her parents when the second plane struck her building. “That’s a nightmare you don’t forget,” said David.

David, who also has four brothers, says the loss of her only sister changed her, but she has not given into anger or hatred. “It’s not how I choose to live my life,” she said, noting that blame doesn’t help healing. Instead, she finds strength in living a good life and doing things for the community.

Though she won’t attend the dedication, reserving Sept. 11 for her family, she said she is “really proud of Laguna that they embrace it,” providing a vehicle to remember the victims and all those who rushed to their rescue.

Laguna Presbyterian Church will remember victims of the attack in prayer and song during 8:30 and 10 a.m worship services, followed by a pancake breakfast. St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, 428 Park Avenue, is launching their fall adult education series on the beliefs and practices of other faith-based communities. The first, “Introduction to Islam,” is to be held at 9:15 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 11, followed by “Jihad, Terrorism, and Peace,” on Sept. 18.

Often overlooked on the anniversary are the airline workers, among the first people who died in the attacks, said local resident and American Airlines pilot Mark Itnyre. “When the planes hit the towers, I knew the pilots weren’t alive,” he said, because they would never have allowed their planes to hit a structure.

While the anniversary serves as reminder to the general public, among airline workers the reminders are present daily, said Itnyre, whose bullet-proof workspace is now a locked cubicle.

On Sept. 11, Laguna Beach resident Matt Bond was on a plane that had departed three hours earlier from Munich, Germany, when he learned of the terrorist attack from a shocked Lufthansa pilot over the aircraft’s loudspeaker. “Ladies and gentlemen I have terrible news…,” he recalled the pilot saying, announcing that terrorists had crashed jets into the World Trade Center. Because the United States had closed its air space, the plane was reversing its course, the pilot told passengers. “Everybody was silent,” said Bond, “ not a peep.”

When he arrived back in Munich, the full magnitude of the day’s events was made visible. “I’ve never seen so many guys standing around with machine guns,” he said. As he and other passengers spent hours trying to make arrangements, rumors alleging 50,000 deaths added to their unease.

Bond was overcome by emotion upon his return to Los Angeles five days later than expected. Passengers who cheered when the wheels touched the tarmac were met by bomb-sniffing dogs and security roaming the airport. On the drive home, American flags waved everywhere, from cars and on buildings. “It was very dramatic to see all that,” he said.

As Cheri David added, “It was pretty amazing to see the outreach of people.”

Perhaps the sentiment that united the nation will also be captured in the reflections seen in the “Semper Memento” sphere.


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