Chico’s Sept. 11 memorial is at fire station No. 5. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

The world was forever changed 20 years ago this month when terrorists took down the Twin Towers in New York City, ploughed a plane into the Pentagon, and were thwarted by Flight 93 passengers who were able to steer the plane into a Pennsylvania field, thus saving who knows how many lives.

It angers me that people are still dying in events that stem from Sept. 11, 2001. I call it the Afghanistan cluster. I doubt anyone will ever be able to convince me there were valid reasons for our continued presence there.

There will never be adequate justice for what occurred 20 years ago. There never can be when there is loss of life. You can’t write a check to make it all better.

But our actions also have consequences and we, the United States, need to take a good, hard look in the mirror and take accountability for the wrongs we have unleashed related to Sept. 11 and at other times.

It is easy to point the finger to say “they” did this to us, therefore we have a right to X, Y and Z to “them.” That logic didn’t work on my elementary school playground, so it certainly should not be how we write our foreign policy.

Remembrances of Sept. 11, 2001, inside the building at Chico fire station No. 5 (Image: Kathryn Reed)

But we also need to remember the human component of all of our decisions. On this Sept. 11, let’s reflect on what we have lost. Because personally, I’m at loss as to what we gained from Sept. 11. I’d like to think we could gain perspective, compassion and understanding about why people could hate us so much to do what they did. If we don’t understand the “whys” of any action, then we will forever be ignorant and on the defensive, and thus susceptible to future turmoil.

As publisher of Lake Tahoe News at the time of the 10-year anniversary of Sept. 11, we put together a multi-day package of stories that to this day I am proud of.

In my current hometown of Chico, I was emotionally moved by the Sept. 11 memorial built by the Chico Firefighters Association and local businesses at Station 5 at the corner of East and Manzanita avenues. There is much more to it than the building that looks like an enclosed bus stop.

In that structure people can write notes and hang them for all to see. Some said:

  • To Captain Joey Durah … We miss u and love you so much. R.I.P. Your bro.
  • May we each all remember we are one and not to be divided less we fall into madness.
  • To all our fallen brothers, miss all of you.

Pictures from that fateful day are on the wall. One shows a Chico firefighter shirt hanging in New York, as well as a sign that reads Paradise California (heart) New York.

Adjacent to the structure at the fire station is a pentagon shaped slab of concrete with the words Never Forget stenciled in red. On the other four sides are the flight numbers of the planes that went down.

In the center are two concrete posts symbolizing the World Trade Center towers with a piece of steel suspended between them that came from one of the towers. One pillar says FDNY, the other 343. That number reflects how many New York City firefighters died that day.

A flag flies at half-staff. Benches are available to sit, to ponder, to reflect, to take it all in. Even 20 years later there is plenty to still try to grasp, to understand, to mourn.

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