As the 10th anniversary of 9/11 took place this weekend, scores of Santa Barbara residents and service members gathered — with the solemn reverence and commitment characteristic of a Sunday church service — in the downtown courthouse’s Sunken Gardens to pay their respects of remembrance for victims and heroes.
Ground Zero eyewitness Bob Niehaus gave his account of the attacks, and was joined by several other speakers including Chaplain Jerry Gray, Poet Laureate Paul Willis, area law enforcement and fire officials, and the San Marcos High School choir.
“It’s been a long uphill climb to sanity and security,” Mistress of Ceremonies Paula Lopez remarked shortly after bagpipes ushered in a scores of uniformed service men and women, including members of the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines —known as the Darkhorse Battalion — who stood thronged around the seated audience.
As America has tried to settle itself over the last decade, presenters at the Sunday ceremony encouraged those present to “never forget.” Keynote speaker Nienhaus said that, “we responded like Americans” in the wake of the attack, sharing his story before the San Marcos choir sang “America the Beautiful.”
Sheriff Bill Brown reminded that 9/11 “was the deadliest day in American law enforcement history,” shortly before a gun salute echoed through the courtyard in the memory of fallen officers. A “ringing of the bells” was then preformed to commemorate the sacrifice of the 343 firefighters who lost their lives. The military bugle call “Taps” and a rendition of “Wind Beneath my Wings,” honoring military and civilian lives lost, followed a “Missing Man” helicopter flyover.
The large outpouring of people who appeared on the courthouse lawn made evident the persisting desire to unite as national community behind the memory of 9/11. “America showcased the very best in human kind,” Sheriff Brown said. “Our enemies hoped to bring us to our knees, but they brought us to our feet instead.”