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Ceres remembers 9/11
It was nine years ago and a whole coast away but Ceres paused to remember the tragedy of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on Friday.

A group of Ceres residents joined with police and fire personnel and members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and American Legion Friday morning at Whitmore Park for a remembrance ceremony. The ceremony included speeches by Ceres Police Chief Art deWerk and Vice Mayor Ken Lane, a 21-gun salute by a veterans honor guard, the playing of taps and a rendition of "Amazing Grace" on the bagpipes.

Saturday marked the ninth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on U.S. soil. The attack - accomplished when Islamic extremists hijacked three planes and ran them into the World Trade Centers, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania corn field - was the worst in American history. More than 2,600 people died at the World Trade Center in New York City, 125 died at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and 256 died on the four planes. The death toll surpassed that at Pearl Harbor in December, 1941. A total of 114 nations were represented in the casualties.

Emcee Sgt. Jose Berber of the Ceres Police Department said Sept. 11 "is a day that should never be forgotten" and said America "demonstrated to the world that our strength will never be broken." He paid homage to the brave emergency workers who perished when the two World Trade Center towers collapsed. He said they all ran toward danger because "they knew their actions were the right thing to do."

DeWerk lamented the loss of the American unity that was the fabric of the landscape in the days following Sept. 11. "We are not, at this time, the same nation of strength and determination as we were during the several years following the 9/11 attacks," said deWerk. "Being in a state of disunity is not what we are about. Cowering to a brutal enemy that is bent on destroying us is not what we are about. We are a democracy that is destined to survive through the sheer will and commitment of its people."

Vice Mayor Ken Lane used the occasion to suggest using "this day as a starting point to reunify the people of our communities in the common purpose of keepinbg our nation safe, return to the road of prosperity, and exist within the spirit of cooperation. A unified population translates to a strong and steadfast nation."

The ceremony included a demonstration of the significance of the folding of the American flag by Steve Breckenridge and Pasquale Sobotka as Steve Scott, first vice commander of the American Legion, read a list of the symbolism of each fold. Breckenridge is a member of the California State Miltary Reserves assigned to Camp Roberts.

Ceres veteran Irv Gilgert led the crowd in a moment of silence at the recent passing of Ben Tapia, the commander of the Ceres chapter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10293. Gilgert also expressed joy in seeing the third- and fifth-graders from Walter White School who walked over to the park for the event.

Others who participated in the event were chaplain Millie Fisher who gave the invocation, the color guard and Keyes resident Harold "Buz" Johnson, a World War II veteran, played taps.