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City Marks 9/11 With Remembrance and Hope

Sep 11, 2015 01:56PM ● By Jeanne Fratello

Fire Chief Robert Espinosa and Police Chief Eve Irvine mark a moment of silence at the city's 9/11 memorial

The city of Manhattan Beach marked the 14th anniversary of the September 11 tragedy at two major ceremonies on Friday, one at Robinson Elementary and one at the site of the 9/11 memorial on Valley Drive.

"It's a somber day, but it's also a day of hope and a day of healing," said Manhattan Beach Police Chief Eve Irvine outside the 9/11 memorial.

The morning began with an "America's Assembly" at Robinson Elementary, a broadly inclusive community event that has become an annual tradition at the school.

In attendance were Manhattan Beach fire and police personnel, including Fire Chief Robert Espinosa; the entire Manhattan Beach city council (Mayor Mark Burton, councilmembers Tony D'Errico, Amy Howorth, David Lesser, and Wayne Powell); city treasurer Tim Lilligren; city manager Mark Danaj; Manhattan Beach Unified School District Superintendent Mike Matthews, school board member Bill Fournell; Manhattan Beach Education Foundation director Farnaz Flechner; and other local leaders.

The ceremony also honored local veterans including Col. John D. Counselman Jr., a U.S. Marine who served in Desert Storm, Desert Shield, and Somalia; Jeff Eick, a U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer and helicopter pilot in Vietnam; Don Engh, a 2nd Lieutenant and U.S. Army Air Corps pilot who served in WWII; and Captain Simon Mattox, a U.S. Army Black Hawk pilot who served in Iraq.

The assembly, led by Robinson Principal Nancy Doyle, began with a color guard presentation of the flag and followed with student speeches and music.

"America is the greatest country in the world and I'm proud to be a citizen," said Robinson 4th grader Alex Spiridellis, noting that his ancestors came from several different countries to seek democracy, freedom, and opportunity. "Thanks to them, I have all these things in America."

Spiridellis added, "I'm also grateful for the soldiers who risked their lives so that we could live in this beautiful country with beaches, mountains, deserts, and forests. Even if we have not always been perfect, America is always making things better."

Eick and Judge Richard (Rick) Lyman, both longtime Manhattan Beach residents, played banjo and led students in singing "This Land Is Your Land," and local professional singer Tamara Walker-Panzarella sang "God Bless the USA."

Later on Valley Drive, police and fire officials held a small, somber ceremony and laid a wreath at the city's 9/11 memorial with city officials and community members gathered in attendance. The memorial's two steel columns are remnants of the World Trade Center towers that collapsed on September 11, 2001.

Police Lieutenant Ryan Small noted that the memorial was designed by local architect Patrick Killen to be a meaningful place of remembrance. "He studied the design of the Twin Towers, looked at the blueprints, and designed them in such a way that every year we would come back here to this point and remember."

Fire Chief Espinosa spoke thoughtfully about memories of 9/11 and the two ceremonies of the morning, noting that the students at Robinson who are honoring 9/11 were not even born at the time of the tragedy. "Today, listening to the children speak at Robinson, they're having memories not of fear, but of hope, patriotism, and what it means to be an American," he said. "That's the focus I would ask you to have for the new generation."

While honoring the victims of 9/11, Police Chief Irvine noted that the day also marked the 63rd anniversary of the death of the first Manhattan Beach police officer to die in the line of duty, Frederick Grau.

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