It was a day many Americans will never forget: September 11, 2001 when nearly 3,000 people were killed in coordinated attacks in New York, Washington D.C., and Pennsylvania.
In the Bay Area, dozens gathered Friday morning to remember the victims of 911 at the Flight 93 memorial site in Union City. United Flight 93 was headed to the San Francisco when the terrorists hijacked the plane. Passengers fought to regain control of the plane and helped to prevent the hijackers from reaching what’s believed to have been their intended target: the U.S. capitol.
“It’s very emotional,” said Lou Madrano of Union City, a Vietnam War veteran who said he had to attend the ceremony. “I don’t know what else to say other than these people are heroes.”
The tribute included a presentation of the colors by the Union City Police Department’s “Explorers” program and a singing of the national anthem. Then, city leaders took turns reading the names of all 40 people aboard Flight 93, with a police officer ringing a bell after each name.
It’s a remembrance that hits home for many, including Sharon Caldwell, a United Airlines flight attendant.
“The emotions, every time we get on the plane, we know we are the target,” said Caldwell with tears in her eyes. “We live with that.”
Earlier in the morning, a group of 17 military members with the Navy Recruiting District of San Francisco gathered at the memorial’s Circle of Remembrance, bowing their heads in a moment of silence at 5:46 a.m., around the time the first plane hit the first tower. They then read stories of some of the victims and then shared where they were when they learned of the tragedy.
For Chief Petty Officer Micaiah Van Rokel, this year was more personal.
“One of my shipmates, Tara, she was actually killed in Tower One,” he said. “She was on the first ship I was on. I just found out this year. It’s horrifying that happened. That hit me really deep.”