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Southland Remembers the Victims of 9/11

Ceremonies, services and tributes help mark the second anniversary of the terrorist attacks.

September 12, 2003|Eric Malnic, Jean Merl and Nita Lelyveld | Times Staff Writers

The more than 3,000 victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks were remembered with ceremonies, prayers, discussions and moments of silence Thursday at the churches, fire stations, schools, airports and homes of Los Angeles County.

The pounding rhythm of Japanese drums echoed through the Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles in the morning to open an interfaith prayer service that stressed understanding, tolerance and unity.

The service marked the second anniversary of the hijackings in which jetliners crashed into the twin World Trade Center towers in New York City, the Pentagon in Virginia and an open field in western Pennsylvania.

Buddhist monks led a meditation chant at the cathedral. A Hindu swami, a Sikh, a rabbi and a member of the Bahai faith joined Cardinal Roger M. Mahony in leading prayers.

Among those attending were Rashid Alam, an 18-year-old Muslim who was attacked by teenagers wielding baseball bats last February in what police described as a hate crime. Calling for tolerance, Alam said, "I hate the word 'hate,' and I think everyone else should. We are all humans, and we all make mistakes, large and small."

Natalie Bahm and Linda Yaffe, two retired United Airlines flight attendants, said they came to pay tribute to the airline employees who died.

"I don't think airline personnel are hardly ever talked of," Yaffe said. "I want to specifically remember them."

Later Thursday, a monument featuring a 23-ton steel column from the base of the World Trade Center was unveiled during a brief ceremony at the Los Angeles Fire Department training center at Elysian Park.

The monument honors the 343 New York City firefighters who died in the collapse of the 110-story trade center towers. The massive column, which rests on pilings sunk 30 feet into the ground, is the largest remnant of the trade center outside New York City.

At the Los Angeles County Fire Department headquarters in the City Terrace area, firefighters tolled a "last alarm," the traditional three sets of five bells each, rung whenever a firefighter is lost in the line of duty. Brief memorial ceremonies were held at all 157 county fire stations.

At Pepperdine University in Malibu, the widow of a passenger on United's Flight 93, which had left Newark, N.J., for San Francisco, helped dedicate a garden to honor all of those who died in the attacks.

Deena Burnett had several cell phone conversations with her husband during the hijacking, during which she told him about the attacks on the World Trade Center and he told her the passengers were working on a plan to overpower the terrorists on their plane. The passengers of Flight 93 fought the hijackers and are widely credited with preventing them from striking their target in Washington. The plane crashed in Pennsylvania.

Burnett, whose husband, Thomas E. Burnett Jr., earned a master's degree from Pepperdine in 1995, told about 100 invited guests that the garden was a fitting tribute to "everyday, ordinary people expressing great virtue, character, integrity and honor."

"The decision each person made on that day was not for accolades; it was simply choosing the right thing to do," Burnett said.

Designed as an outdoor sanctuary, the ridge-top garden at Pepperdine offers sweeping views of the ocean.

At Los Angeles International Airport, about 200 employees, passengers and visitors formed a "circle of unity" around the airfield's theme building to observe a moment of silence, hand out small American flags and sing "God Bless America."

It was a re-creation of a ceremony held Sept. 14, 2001, the day large-scale flight service returned to the airport after the terrorist attacks.

Three of the jetliners that went down Sept. 11, 2001 -- United Airlines Flight 175 from Boston, American Airlines Flight 11 from Boston and American Airlines Flight 77 from Washington -- had been headed for LAX when they were taken over by terrorists.

At high schools in North Hills, Lincoln Heights and the Crenshaw district, judges and lawyers from the Los Angeles County Bar Assn. led "dialogues of freedom" with students.

At nightfall, Long Beach firefighter Gary Biggerstaff unveiled a lighted display of 343 crosses in the yard of his home, one for each of the fallen firefighters in New York City.

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