Our Laguna: American Legion Post remembers 9/11

Gray skies and a drizzle didn't dampen the ardor of the speakers and guests at a ceremony in remembrance of that tragic day 11 years ago and the unquenchable spirit with which we responded.

Laguna's American Legion Post hosted the ceremony, which began at 11 a.m. at the Veterans Memorial Building on Legion Street

"By this time on Sept. 11, 2001, the World Trade Center towers had collapsed, the Pentagon had been hit and a fourth plane had crashed in rural Pennsylvania," said Supervisor Todd Spitzer, keynote speaker.

Much has changed since then, including our internal security measures and our sense of safety, Spitzer said.

But our character as a nation, our trust in our place in the world, our sense of justice, of right and wrong and our pursuit of freedom have not changed, he said.

"I want to speak today about how we felt as a nation over this last decade and how our emotion and sense of country allowed us to recover, strive and survive these horrible events — really how we identify ourselves as a people: "e pluribus unun, out of many, one," Spitzer said.

Americans, including himself, are willing to die for the sake of freedom, Spitzer said.

"Since our declaration on terror, 2.8 million men and women have volunteered for our armed services; 6,500 have given their lives in Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Operation New Dawn," Spitzer said.

And what have we learned?

We have learned that America is vulnerable, that America cannot be complacent and that America has responsibilities to the rest of the world, Spitzer said.

But we should count our blessings, honor our country and those who made incredible sacrifices to preserve freedom, Spitzer said.

"We are so proud of this 0/11 generation," Spitzer said. "We will never forget their sacrifice."

He was given a standing ovation.

Post Vice Commander Dave Connell introduced Spitzer, who was an Orange County Supervisor once before, former county assistant district attorney and former state assemblyman.

"That is good news us — bad news for criminals," Connell said.

First Vice Commander Joe Marcosa served as master of ceremonies for the 9/11 program.

"On behalf of the veterans in the American Legion and the Ladies Auxiliary, I want to welcome all of you to our annual ceremony to honor all patriots; to honor victims of Sept. 11, 2001, especially to honor the firefighters and police; to demonstrate our support for the United States Armed Forces and the sacrifices they have made for us and to demonstrate our resolve as Americans to defeat terrorism once and for all," Marcosa said.

An empty chair was placed next to the rostrum at which Marcosa spoke.

"It represents all of the Prisoners of War and those missing in action from all the wars and conflicts of our country," Marcosa said. "These men and women remain unaccounted for…but not forgotten."

Auxiliary President Diane Connell then welcomed guests to the ceremony, followed by post Chaplin Norm Abbod who gave the invocation.

Laguna Beach Police Officers Dave McGill, James Michaud, Jon Coutchie and Abe Ocampo served as the color guard, while past post Cmdr. Frank Daniel led the audience in the Pledge of Alliance and April Walsh sang the "Star Spangled Banner."

Mayor Pro Tem Verna Rollinger took the rostrum to thank the legion post for organizing the memorial.

"It is important to remember and honor those who lost their lives," Rollinger said.

Laguna Beach Fire Chief Kris Head said the words "Never Forget" have been etched into our memory since 911.

"Never forget, nearly 3,000 innocent people were killed on 9/11," Head said.

"Never forget the supreme sacrifice that 343 New York Firefighters, 23 New York police officers, and 37 Port Authority police made on that horrific day," he added.

Head said that we should always remember the families and loved ones of those lost on 9/11, the men and women of our armed forces who defend our countries freedom and their loved ones and the rescuers who worked on the Trade Center rubble and have fallen sick or died from debilitating diseases.

"And finally, never forget that freedom is seldom free, that it usually comes at a price and our resolve to protect that freedom must be unwavering" Head said.

Laguna Beach police Capt. Jason Kravetz also spoke.

"While we can never forget the tragedies surrounding that horrific day…there is hope that we have learned from it," Kravetz said. "This hope is that we have become more compassionate towards our fellow Americans, more prepared for the future and more willing to lend a hand.

"Someone once said, 'Live each day as if it is your last. I am sure that the 2,819 people who perished on Sept.11, 2011 would be imploring you to do so," Kravetz noted.

The ceremony concluded with the benediction by Abbod.

"We pray today that from the ashes will rise a news spirit of beauty and unity in American," he said.

He prayed that the tearful would be comforted, those coldly bitter be warmed, heads bowed in sadness be raised and the discouraged reminded that love will conquer hate.

OUR LAGUNA is a regular feature of the Laguna Beach Coastline Pilot. Contributions are welcomed. Call (714) 966-4618 or email coastlinepilot@latimes.com with Attn. Barbara Diamond in the subject line.

Copyright © 2019, Daily Pilot
EDITION: California | U.S. & World