In 2011, as Del Norte County District Attorney, I was asked to join other members of law enforcement and our county’s first responders in memorializing the 10th Anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001. Sitting in a new abode last night, listening to the familiar, moss muffled, channel marker’s claxon ring, I read my speech from that day again and, with a great heave of chest, looked east upon the rest of my country, to places like Charlottesville and our great nation’s capital. To the NFL’s fields of conquest and the holding pens of our immigration authorities, eventually resting upon the beacon intermittently shining its path home from the lighthouse, scant yards across the rocks.
I looked out, I listened, I remembered. And then, I prayed.
“Good Evening. Once again, a decade later, as the sun rises and sets upon America, we gather collectively in an attitude of mourning, of celebration and of prayer. Like each of us, I recall where I was when I first heard of the attack upon the towers and then the Pentagon, where I was later to learn my cousin had perished along with 43 people from the county of my birth.
“I come here this evening to mourn and pay final and lasting tribute to the victims. In the days and years that passed, I dealt with that day in many ways — grief, fear, bewilderment and sadly… hatred.
“Earlier this year, on June 16, I sat in the emergency room at Sutter Coast Hospital. Accompanied by sheriff’s Detective Melanie Berry, we sat and watched for hours as a man named Jerry Steele gasped for his final breath, after driving 400 miles to murder 14 year old Cecilia Mortensen, before turning the gun on himself. In between the periodic checking of his pulse and contemplating the capital case that the lying in wait and point blank shooting into an innocent child’s face demanded, I became lost in some mad red season that such acts breed of everyday men. Several hours later, after Jerry Steele exited this veil for darker regions, I found myself down the hallway, holding the hand of this beautiful little girl who would never see her 15th birthday. At that time, I continued a vow that began on May 1 of that year with the killing of Osama Bin Laden.
“The vow I made then and renew this evening and beyond the morrow, is a refusal to allow the hatred, intolerance, fanaticism and insanity that spawned 9/11 and continues today, to infect or become a part of me, because that is the only way the battle that began on that day can be lost to me or my country.
“I come to our fairgrounds this evening to celebrate the heroes of 9/11, most notably the 403 New York City firefighters and police officers and the 40 brave passengers on United Flight 93 who refused to go quietly and saved untold lives in their final supreme act of courage, when Todd Beamer said, “Let’s roll.”
“In that celebration, in their memory, I ask you to mark well and honor their representatives-heroes in their own right. From our firefighters, our members of law enforcement, our CO’s at Pelican Bay, airport Homeland Security and every other man and woman, who by their commitment, day in and day out, keep our community safe and the legacy of those noble dead shining and long-lasting.
Last, I come in an attitude of prayer for my country. I pray that we never forget the true origins of the gift of liberty the Founding Fathers bestowed upon us.
“I pray that we refuse to succumb to the insanity that gave us the horror of Pearl Harbor and 9/11… and the internments at Manzanar and the torture chambers of Abu Ghraib.
“I pray that we remember that winning a war we have embarked upon, lies not as much in numbering the body count of the enemy but in maintaining the integrity and honor of our national body politic.
“I pray that we never forget that Mr. Lincoln’s ‘better angels of our nature’ reside in humaneness, compassion, good will, tolerance and kindness.
“And, as Mr. Lincoln said, upon another field of hallowed ground in Pennsylvania, 152 years ago, just 65 miles from Shanksville, where Flight 93 crashed: It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion — that we here highly resolved that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.
“Thank you. God bless you all and may God bless America.”
Jon Alexander lives in Crescent City and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org