It was a lot for the 14-year-old to take in.
Matthew Galinda could have been at the beach or at the movies or just chilling with friends Sunday afternoon but instead, he spent a chunk of the day soaking up disturbing images and hearing about the horrible toll of a day he’s heard a lot about but wasn’t around to endure first hand:
Walking out of the hour-long National Day of Service and Remembrance at the City National Grove of Anaheim on the 15th anniversary of the terrorist attacks, Galinda and his buddies made a beeline to the nearly 40 tables representing local non-profit organizations to learn how he could give back to his community.
For while Sunday’s event, hosted by Anaheim Fire & Fire Rescue and the Anaheim PD, primarily was to honor the people who died and were injured that terrible day — nearly 3,000 people killed, including 343 firefighters and 72 members of law enforcement — the ceremony this year also was a call to action for people to volunteer to make their communities better.
Matthew and a half-dozen of his pals, all students of Loara High School in Anaheim, signed volunteer pledge forms to donate at least one hour of their time each month to the Orange County Family Justice Center, which provides services to people whose lives have been touched by child abuse, domestic violence, elder/dependent adult abuse, or sexual assault.
At another table, Dylan Chylinski, 12, was with his mother, Pamela, learning about the Orange County Rescue Mission and volunteer opportunities.
“I want to give (back),” Dylan said.
Said his mother: “Awareness is everything.”
Join. Remember. Give Back.
That was the theme of the 15th National Day of Service and Remembrance, which included tales of bravery from cops and firefighters to ordinary citizens on one of the darkest days in U.S. history, as well as mentions of recent terrorist events including the mass-shooting in San Bernardino 10 months ago that claimed 14 lives and seriously injured nearly two dozen.
The event was moved this year from the Grand Plaza at the Convention Center to The Grove in anticipation of more than 1,000 attendees, and the venue was full.
“Today we are here to remember to honor and to give back to our community so that those lives lost…are never forgotten,” said emcee Rick Martinez, a retired Anaheim PD sergeant.
Anaheim PD Chaplain Kerry Duerr, in his invocation, said: “We remember the unfortunate state of a world filled with hostility and hate, death and destruction, but we also remember those who serve by giving themselves to rescue and protect people in this hostile world….
“We remember the heartaches and the sacrifices and we give thanks to the many who acted heroically that day. Oh God of grace, comfort those who still mourn on this day.”
The Vanguard University Concert Choir performed the national anthem as well as “The Prayer” and “God Bless the USA,” and Holly Cahill, daughter of Anaheim PD Deputy Chief Dan Cahill, performed her original composition, “You Still Put the Uniform On.”
Anaheim Police Chief Raul Quezada recounted the heroic and selfless efforts on 9/11 of rookie NYPD Officer Jose Torres, who originally was scheduled to attend Sunday’s event in Anaheim but whose current duties as an elite counterterrorism specialist prevented him from coming to Orange County.
Torres was off duty on Sept. 11, 2001, but he worked around to the clock at Ground Zero for 24 hours straight and for the following three weeks, including weathering the gruesome task of search and rescue and being assigned to a temporary morgue.
“What gets us through (tragedies) is the people — it’s people united,” Quezada said. “It was people who stood up to terrorists on the plane that September day. It was people who rushed to the aid of those stranded in the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, and…the first responders who rushed to aid those in need. They ran into danger, driven by a desire to help.”
Quezada said Torres “taught us we have a responsibility to each other and to our community. We must get involved and care and support one other.”
Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait emphasized the need for people to reach out and serve their communities to honor the victims of 9/11.
Tait played the short film “Boatlift,” which recounted the dramatic evacuation of more than 500,000 people from lower Manhattan in the span of nine hours during and after the Twin Towers collapsed after being hit by planes hijacked by terrorists.
He spoke of the “9/11” generation of young people like Galinda who have grown up with heightened security, war and constant vigilance.
“But you’re not cynical,” Tait said of this generation. “You are engaged, responsible and kind.”
Anaheim Fire & Rescue Chief Randy Bruegman recounted the experience of witnessing that horrible day, which he called “a day of transformation for our nation and our world.”
Bruegman told the audience: “Your presence here today demonstrates the unity and respect that we all have for the lives that were lost that day…that’s why it’s so important that we gather to honor and remember the countless acts of courage, strength and compassion that followed that fateful day.”
Touching upon a terrorist event closer to home, Bruegman introduced two first responders who personally responded to the Dec. 2, 2015 terrorist attack in San Bernardino, San Bernardino PD Lt. Mike Madden and San Bernardino County Fire Department Engineer/Paramedic Ryan Starling.
The two received a sustained ovation, as did military veterans and those currently serving who were asked to stand to be recognized.
Sunday afternoon’s ceremony also included a “Last Alarm” ceremony, a tradition that signals when a firefighter has died in the line of duty in which a bell is ringed five times in three consecutive cycles, and the laying of a memorial wreath to honor those who died on 9/11.
And then dozens of people visited the tables to learn about volunteer opportunitieSaid Elsa Covarrubias, at Anaheim Fire & Rescue: “The service puts the honor and remembering into action.”
For more information, please visit OneOC’s 9/11 Day of Service & Remembrance page.