Piece of Mind: It's there when we need it

Appropriately, across our country this week the spotlight has been aimed on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on America. In La Cañada, the Young Republican Club is sponsoring a memorial service on Sunday, as it has for the past few years, to reflect on the events of 9/11. The service is set for 2 p.m. in the courtyard of La Canada Presbyterian Church. It will be a solemn cap to the city’s 9.10.11 weekend, which you can read about elsewhere in the Valley Sun today.

All the talk about the anniversary led me to look back on our reporting of the 9/11 events. I was reminded that in the days leading up to the attacks, La Cañadans were just easing into the back-to-school routine, with classes having started on Sept. 4 that year. It was an opening that was “as smooth as silk,” according to Lily Ogden, then the principal at La Cañada Elementary School.

Also that week, the Teen Advisory Board hosted a dance at the Community Center, some local travel agents staged a symbolic strike to express disgust at newly adopted airline commission rates that they said could put them out of business, and the City Council heard from residents who objected to a new policy that moved the public comment portion of council meetings to the end of the evening rather than before the bulk of the agenda items. It was the usual mix of harmony and angst.

Then the terrorists struck. Due to security concerns, JPL was shut down that morning, with road blocks set up by federal officers at all of the lab’s entrances and exits shortly after the attacks on the East Coast. “We’ve turned away at least 10,000 cars in the last hour,” Martin Moccaldi, who was overseeing the NASA security team at JPL, said at 8:30 a.m. our time that day. “This is something else. Everybody is going crazy. The United States is under attack. I’m afraid there’s going to be a lot of copy cats.”

JPL’s closure led to the shutdown of its neighbor, La Cañada High, where more than 2,100 students were on campus. Hillside Learning Center also shut its doors for the day after learning LCHS was closing. Parents rushed down to those schools to collect their kids.

After shaking off the scares, our town joined its counterparts across the nation in an outpouring of sympathy and patriotism. Thousands of people offered to donate blood at the San Gabriel Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross. The local Methodists, Presbyterians and Episcopalians, within hours of the attacks, put together mid-week prayer services.

Before we knew it, American flags were waving everywhere in La Cañada Flintridge, as they were across the nation. In the days following 9/11, our youths organized car washes, sold flowers and set up lemonade stands to raise funds to contribute to funds set up for the families of fallen firefighters.

Youngster Hailey Peitzman, who with her sister Molly and friends Laura Gilligan, Leah Gilligan, Cole Herzer and Keaton Herzer, raised $1818.13 in their Paradise Canyon neighborhood selling lemonade for the cause. Hailey told us, “We did this to help the people in New York — and it felt good.”

As the community gathers together this weekend to celebrate the coincidence of our ZIP code and the date, let’s also celebrate the generosity of spirit that can be found in the hearts of those of us living in the 91011. We may not always wear our appreciation for fellow human beings on our sleeves, but it’s most definitely there when we need it most.

CAROL CORMACI is managing editor of the La Cañada Valley Sun. Email her at ccormaci@valleysun.net or carol.cormaci@latimes.com.

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