Manhattan Beach Residents Observe 9/11 In Small CeremonySep 11, 2020 10:26AM ● By Jeanne Fratello
A small crowd gathers at Manhattan Beach's 9/11 memorial in the smoky, hazy air caused by fires across the state.
A small group of Manhattan Beach residents gathered at the 9/11 memorial on Friday morning for a solemn commemoration of the 19th anniversary of the tragic event.
The group had gathered in lieu of an official event, following the city's announcement that there would be no formal 9/11 ceremony this year due to state and county public health restrictions on gatherings.
Led by residents Lee Phillips and Judy Peng, the crowd of about 30 stood solemnly at the memorial, in air thick with haze and smoke from California fires. The group heard brief remarks and recollections from residents, followed by a moment of silence.
End of "Thank You MBPD/MBFD" Sign Drive
The 9/11 gathering also marked the official end of the "Thank You MBPD/MBFD" sign drive. A group of residents led by Peng had begun distributing the signs on July 4 with donations accepted to cover the cost of printing and to print more signs.
After 10 weeks, the amount remaining in the printing fund was $3,404. Peng said that the group decided that half should be donated to the Manhattan Beach Police Department and half to the Manhattan Beach Fire Department.
"This started as a way to thank the police and fire departments, and we thought this was a nice end to the sign campaign - to finish today with 'Thank You' on 9/11," said Phillips.
Manhattan Beach Interim Fire Chief Wolfgang Knabe made a brief appearance at the gathering to thank residents for observing 9/11 and for the donation. He said that the donation would be "put to good use" for paramedic equipment.
"Manhattan Beach is an outstanding city," Knabe told DigMB. "The community has been so supportive. The encouragement, and the sense of community here is incredible."
Manhattan Beach resident and City Council candidate Joe Franklin said that he had purchased the remaining "Thank You MBPD/MBFD" signs and would pay for more signs to distribute to anyone who wanted a sign or whose sign had been stolen or defaced.
City Leaders Reflect on 9/11
Despite the lack of a formal gathering, city leaders across town expressed sorrow and gratitude on the somber anniversary of the tragedy.
The Manhattan Beach Chamber of Commerce dedicated its weekly blog and newsletter to 9/11 reflections.
"Although the annual gatherings and ceremonies that have come to be Manhattan Beach traditions are forced to pause until 2021, we continue to remember and honor the heroic efforts and the amazing humans that were called to action," wrote Manhattan Beach Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Kelly Stroman. "We will never forget and are forever grateful."
The Chamber of Commerce published a guest blog post from Scott Yanofsky, a Manhattan Beach resident and member of the Manhattan Beach Rotary, who led the design team for the city's 9/11 memorial.
"The 9/11 event touched me in a very strong and personal way. When I learned that I had an opportunity to help construct the 9/11 memorial in MB, I jumped at the chance. I put together a team to make it happen," wrote Yanofsky. [The team included Pat Killen, Steve Oliker, Mark Brush, and Yanofsky.] "Many people contributed to the development of the memorial. May it be a reminder, for decades to come, that we shall never forget."
The Chamber's newsletter also included an excerpt from remarks delivered last year (in Hermosa Beach) by Manhattan Beach Fire Captain and Paramedic Tim O'Brien. O'Brien was called to New York City to use his technical rescue skills in the aftermath of 9/11.
"I arrived to a vast sea of twisted steel, much of it too hot to touch with a bare hand," said O'Brien, in a recollection published in the Easy Reader last year. "I remember smoke erupting out of different places as cars or other things deep below caught fire. I remember so much paper everywhere, all of it important at one time, but not anymore. I remember big, tough New York firefighters and cops, hugging each other crying, unable to believe that they were alive, and unable to believe that so many others were not.
"We would traverse the sea of twisted steel, looking for voids or signs of stairwells and make our way down, but frequently were pushed out by smoke or gas or impassible situations. Twelve-hour shifts, a couple of hours to clean our equipment and shower, get something to eat, have some restless sleep, then back to the pile. We spent a week searching, and recovering people, but found no one to rescue."
O'Brien concluded, "Those entering college now don’t have an independent recollection of 9/11. So it is up to the older generations to remember, and explain. Memorials like this create a healing space to do so, and as the plaque in front of this [Hermosa Beach] memorial suggests, 'Have our voices unite in a song of freedom.' For firefighters and police officers, there is an additional layer of meaning. Memorials like this remind us of our oath to protect and serve, and do so with courage and honor."
Manhattan Beach Mayor Richard Montgomery posted a remembrance on his Instagram page: "Life is a precious gift that we were given. Hug your friends, loved ones, check in on someone and simply tell the ones you love that you love them. Don't waste life on the small things because you simply never know what will come our way. As always, be kind and good to each other."
In a statement yesterday, the city of Manhattan Beach noted that officials would focus on preparing for a larger memorial next year, on the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy.
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