He lives two miles from the Pentagon and remembers the smell of jet fuel on that horrible day 14 years ago.
On Friday morning, Jeff McQuilkin, of Alexandria, Va., walk downstairs from his room in the Sheraton Park Hotel at the Anaheim Resort to attend a 9-11 Remembrance Ceremony held at the Grand Plaza of the Anaheim Convention Center.
Officials and firefighters from Anaheim Fire & Rescue and the Anaheim Police Department, as well as City of Anaheim officials, joined members of the public in paying tribute to the nearly 3,000 people who died in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center in New York.
“I was not personally affected (by the attack on the Pentagon) but like everybody, I am here to pay my respects,” said McQuilkin, 52, who was in town to help set up the Solar Power International convention that starts Monday at the Anaheim Convention Center.
The annual ceremony is a somber reflection on the ultimate sacrifice made by first responders on 9-11 as well as the others who were killed in the two towers, on the ground and in the four hijacked commercial airliners that day.
“It was a day that renewed our calling to be stewards of the American spirit — a day that reminded us that evil does exist,” Anaheim Police Chief Raul Quezada told the assembled.
Quezada noted that 343 firefighters and 72 police officers were killed in the 9-11 attacks. A total of 2,996 people died.
“We are very fortunate to have here in Anaheim brave men and women who serve as our first responders,” Quezada said. “They continue to give of themselves to protect the lives of others each and every day…We are truly grateful for your continued service to the community.”
Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait said 9-11 will continue to symbolize the “selfless sacrifice” we ask of our firefighters, police and other first responders.
“Every day here in Anaheim,” Tait said, “you serve our residents in their hour of need.”
Anaheim Fire & Rescue Chief Randy Bruegman said 9-11 changed the “fabric of our everyday lives” forever and the annual remembrance ceremony is an opportunity for the public to show gratitude and thanks to police, firefighters and other first responders — and to be of service to our fellow countrymen.
“Every effort that we make as individuals to help one another makes this community and our nation stronger,” Bruegman said.
The remembrance ceremony included the joint Honor Guard of the Anaheim PD and AF&R, a performance of two songs by the Loara High School Choir, a “Last Bell” ceremony, in which a bell is rung five times in three cycles to honor first responders who died while on duty, a laying of a ceremonial wreath, and a bagpiper’s rendition of “Amazing Grace.”
Omar Gonzales was only 4 on 9-11 but he recalls seeing the horrific images on TV.
Now 18 and a recent graduate of Loara High School, Gonzales is an explorer with Anaheim Fire & Rescue.
Said Gonzales: “This is a day to remember all those who were brave and gave their lives to help others.”