Ontario emergency services personnel held a brief ceremony to mark the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. (The Enterprise/Pat Caldwell)
ONTARIO – Ontario Police Chief Steven Romero called it the “most horrendous experience.”
Ontario Fire Chief and Rescue chief Terry Leighton said Sept. 11, 2001, was “a day our nation changed, in fact, our world changed.”
Leighton and Romero, along with Riley Hill, Ontario mayor, delivered short speeches last Wednesday, Sept. 11, in front of Ontario City Hall during a ceremony to mark the 18th anniversary of the deadly terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center in New York.
From a podium below the flagpole in front of city hall, Romero, Leighton and Hill talked about the impact of the deadly attacks. Near the podium, with an American flag draped over a rock monument honoring those who died.
A crowd of more than 60 people – including students from Four Rivers Community School – stood or sat in a tight group in the street in front of city hall and watched the ceremony that included a pledge of allegiance and prayer.
Hill, who said he visited the World Trade Center site after the attacks, reminded the crowd to remember those who lost their lives.
“We will not forget and must not forget,” Hill said.
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Lt. Jason Cooper of the Ontario Police Department offered the police officer’s prayer and said after the ceremony that emergency services personnel from across the nation form a deep connection that is crucial during a time of crisis.
“When you work together to protect the community, it creates a bond you can’t describe,” said Cooper.
Leighton, who spearheaded the ceremony, said the 911 attacks unified the nation, a situation he isn’t sure is evident now.
“Somehow, 18 years later, the biggest enemy we face is ourselves. How do we find that unity again?” said Leighton.
Leighton said the ceremony was important “for me to remember the sacrifice made that day” by emergency services personnel in New York City.
More than 300 firefighters and 71 police officers died in the World Trade Center during that attack.
“I was happy to see the crowd and see the students from Four Rivers,” said Leighton.
For Romero, who said he was a police detective working in the Los Angeles area on Sept. 11, 2001, the 911 attacks still resonate.
“It rewired the way I looked at the world,” said Romero. “It affected even small communities. You feel it at the community level like no other community event.”
Leighton said this was the third year a ceremony was held in Ontario to remember the fallen.
Reporter Pat Caldwell: [email protected] or 541-473-3377.
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