The crackle of emergency radio calls boomed out of the speakers at exactly 8:46 a.m. – the moment when the first airplane hit the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.
Wearing white gloves and clasping his hands on his lap, Anaheim Fire Chief Randy R. Bruegman stared straight ahead, listening to the horror unfold along with other somber-faced attendees – the majority of them in uniform.
Minutes later, Bruegman addressed the crowd assembled in the Grand Plaza outside the Anaheim Convention Center on Thursday morning.
“Today we pay our respects for the victims of this unimaginable event by remembering the lives lost and the families who have been personally touched by this tragic event,” Bruegman said at a 9/11 remembrance ceremony hosted by Anaheim Fire & Rescue, the Anaheim Police Department and the Anaheim/Orange County Visitor & Convention Bureau.
“We also gather to recognize the men and women in uniform – both past and present — who respond daily to emergencies in our community as well as on the battlefields abroad,” Bruegman said. “Many have paid the ultimate sacrifice so that we may stand here this morning and experience the freedom this country provides.
“For their service, we are most grateful.”
Anaheim Police Chief Raul Quezada, who like Bruegman spoke before a dramatic backdrop of a large U.S. flag hoisted between the extended ladders of two fire trucks, recalled the lives lost on that terrible day.
“Thirteen years ago our nation saw the face of evil,” Quezada said, adding that the terrorists “grossly underestimated” the resolve of the American people.
“It’s a day that reminded us that evil exists, but will not prevail,” Quezada said.
As several police officers, firefighters and city officials and lawmakers looked on, both chiefs recalled the courage, heroism and patriotism demonstrated by the cops, first responders, emergency medical workers and thousands of civilians as they rushed to help those in need.
And both chiefs reminded the crowd that such bravery is on display every time a police officer or firefighter reports to duty.
Then came the sounding of the bell – five tolls in three consecutive cycles. The Last Alarm Bell Ceremony is a tradition that signals when a firefighter has died in the line of duty.
“And so,” Bruegman said, “to those who have selflessly given their lives for the good of their fellow citizen on 9/11, to our military personnel who have paid the ultimate sacrifice, their duties complete, to all who responded to their last alarm, we say ‘a job well done.’”
Quezada and Bruegman then presented a ceremonial wreath and folded flag in honor of the fallen.