11 years after 9-11 terrorist attacks, events to honor the lives sacrificed

yamaro@mercedsunstar.comSeptember 11, 2012 

— A few area events are scheduled today and later this week to commemorate those who were killed by the terrorist attacks on 9-11 and those who have sacrificed their lives since then in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

"We need to recognize all the Americans that helped during that dark moment in the United States' history," said Rojelio Gutierrez, principal at Luther Burbank Elementary School in Merced.

It has been 11 years since the 9-11 attacks, when hijacked commercial jetliners were crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon by al-Qaida terrorists.

Luther Burbank Elementary School will have its second annual Patriot Day celebration at 9 a.m.

The event will include the reading of essays written by students about what it means to be a patriot, as well as a brief talk by Gutierrez, said Aaron Alexander, learning director at the school. Members of American Legion Post 83 and first responders also might be present.

"It's good to teach kids about patriotism," Gutierrez said.

The event was organized so children can begin to understand "the value of community and the value of sacrifice," Alexander said. The event is open to the public.

American Legion Post 83 will lower its flag today to honor those who have lost their lives since the attacks.

On Friday, the American Legion Riders Chapter 83, a group within the post, and area first responders will escort a traveling wall with more than 6,000 names -- including nine from Merced -- of soldiers who have lost their lives since the war on terrorism started, said David Tucker, the post's commander.

The wall, which belongs to a nonprofit called Welcome Home Heroes, will be coming from Manteca, but the legion riders will escort it from Turlock to Merced, said Mike Anderson, one of the founders of Welcome Home Heroes.

The nonprofit provides assistance to returning soldiers and those on active duty, he said.

"We assist military personnel that are transitioning from military back to civilian life with whatever their needs might be," said Anderson, whose only son was killed in Iraq in 2004.

The traveling tribute, which Anderson called unique, will arrive in Merced on Friday about 11 a.m. or noon. It will be set up in front of American Legion Post 83 in Merced and will be on public display through Saturday, Tucker said.

"It's just a time for the local community to come and pay respect, and honor those who sacrificed their lives since 9-11 and pay tribute," he said.

Saturday at noon, the legion riders will welcome speakers including Merced Mayor Stan Thurston and Anderson, Tucker said. The group will present a $5,000 check to Welcome Home Heroes to help the nonprofit continue assisting returning veterans, Tucker said.

The wall will be escorted back to Turlock on Sunday morning by the legion riders.

Tucker said it's important to have events that honor those who are putting their lives on the line.

"If we don't do something to have the public remember, they tend to forget," he said.

The College Republicans at UC Merced plan to place flags in the quad area today in remembrance of 9-11.

Also today, UC Merced is inviting the campus community and the public to take part in its National Day of Service from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. with a cleanup effort at Lake Yosemite. For more information on the Lake Yosemite cleanup, please contact vdoty@ucmerced. edu.

Reporter Yesenia Amaro can be reached at (209) 385-2482 or yamaro@mercedsunstar.com.

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