THE BIG CHIEFS
On Sept. 11 a small crowd of Saddleback College faculty, staff, students and administration united outside the Health Services building to commemorate the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 tragedy, and to recall the many individuals who lost their lives that fateful day.
Though some of the student attendees were only in elementary school during the attacks, the memories of that Monday seven years ago remain vivid images.
“We have to remember 9/11-never forget,” Joshua Lin, 18, political science, said. “I’m here to show support to all the heroes who lost their lives, and to their families.”
“Today’s somber ceremony is a time to reflect on the heroism of our first responders and the commitment of the American people to unite and rebuild after an act of terrorism that sought to break the American spirit, but failed,” Saddleback President Tod Burnett said in his opening remarks.
Burnett then thanked the Saddleback’s paramedic class #65 for their presence and heroic choice in pursuing a career to help others in need.
Saddleback Chief of Police Harry Parmer, also a Marine Corps veteran, led the ceremony.
“Today, seven years later,” Parmer said, “we come together as a community to honor and remember the thousands of heroes who, knowingly or not, gave their lives for our freedom.”
He reminded those in attendance that it is America’s duty to insure that future generations keep the memories of such a historic event alive and to make every effort to prevent a similar tragedy.
Nick Colonelli, 28, paramedic, was the first student speaker at the ceremony. He reflected on life before and after 9/11. As a firefighter with the Anaheim Fire Department for three years, his life as a first responder was very altered that day. The men in his company felt a dreaded sense of uncertainty and helplessness each time the alarm sounded, not knowing if the ringing bell was for a routine call, like a broken leg, or for something beyond comprehension, like a hijacked plane that had crashed into a building.
“I was not alone as I saw the look of the speechless men I was working with that day,” he said in his speech.
Colonelli concluded on a positive note, expressing the camaraderie of his fellow firefighters and paramedics.
“No matter what, we would go through it together, as a crew, leaving no one behind,” he said. “And that is the spirit that exemplifies all first responders.”
Saddleback alumni, Adam Miller, was next to speak. He said that on Sept. 11, 2001, he was attending college in Hawaii and was just starting an 8 a.m. class when he heard about the planes flying into the Towers.
“Suddenly my GPA, how much money I had in the bank, or if the girl in psychology class liked me or not who sat across from me really didn’t seem important,” Miller said.
After Miller finished college, he enlisted in the army and was deployed to Iraq for a 14-month tour.
“My friends in San Clemente thought I was insane. We had grown up in the bubble that was South Orange County,” Miller said. “None of us had ever missed a meal, slept in the dirt. None of us had ever been shot at. We never had to worry about much more than hitting traffic, where we were going to party, or how good the surf was. On 9/11, that bubble was cracked and we all had something to be afraid of.”
Once the speeches concluded, the crowd saluted as campus police officers Santos Garcia, Beau Arbuthnot, and Jim Pyle presented the colors while the national anthem played. The ceremonial wreath was presented by Saddleback paramedic students, joined by Chancellor Raghu P. Mathur, President Burnett, Academic Senate President Bob Cosgrove and Classified Senate President Mary William, followed by a moment of silence and the traditional playing of “Taps.”
Erin Maremont, assistant in the Student Development Office, concluded the ceremony with an a cappella version of “America the Beautiful”.
The attendees quietly parted, some wiping tears from their eyes. Kelly McCorkle, 22, undecided, did not forget the events of 9/11, and showed her patriotism by wearing a red, white and blue scarf in her hair.
“I was a sophomore in high school, getting ready to start my first class when a friend ran up and asked if I heard what had happened,” McCorkle said. “I wasn’t sure what she meant, until the teacher turned on the television, just in time to see the second jet fly into the World Trade Center. That’s when the world went silent.”