2023 California 9/11 Memorial Ceremony

(Photo Destiny De La Cruz, Clovis Roundup)
(Photo Destiny De La Cruz, Clovis Roundup)


(Photo Destiny De La Cruz, Clovis Roundup)
(Photo Destiny De La Cruz, Clovis Roundup)

September 11, 2023 – Before the ceremony began, names of the people who passed away on 9/11 were displayed on screens around the park.

Nearby streets were lined with 404 American flags, representing the police, fire, emergency services personnel, and one K-9 who perished on September 11th, 2001.

The Clovis Police Department, Fresno Police Department, Fresno County Sheriff Department, Madera County Sheriff Department, Fresno Fire Department, Clovis Fire Department, and Cal Fire were among some of the organizations that participated in the ceremony. Many others were present, including airmen from the Air National Guard’s 144th Fighter Wing.

Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer was in attendance, along with many other Fresno and Clovis leaders.

“Today’s ceremony not only commemorates those who lost their lives, but also the heroic efforts of many to save lives,” stated the announcer.

At 8:46, actual radio dispatch calls from 9/11 were played over the speakers—this was the exact minute that the first plane hit the first tower, 1 World Trade Center, the North Tower.

After the radio dispatch audio was played, a siren went off, and then the flag was lowered. The National Anthem was sung, followed by a wreath procession, a pipe and drum detail performing Amazing Grace, and a 21 gun salute by the US Marine Corps.

Next, a fire bell rang three times, three times in a row. “This is a tradition of the fire service that reflects respect and honor to those who give their lives to their duty. It also represents the end of an emergency, and the return to quarters,” continued the announcer.

Kingsburg Fire Chief Dan Perkins presented a flag to honored guest, retired Port Authority of NY and NJ Police Detective, and Navy Veteran, Will Jimeno. Jimeno survived the 9/11 terrorist attacks after being buried in rubble for 13 hours alongside Port Authority police officer, Sergeant John McLoughlin.

Will Jimeno proceeded to give a powerful and moving speech. Jimeno spoke of immigrating to the U.S. at age 2 from Colombia, and going on to serve in the U.S. Navy before serving as a detective for the Port Authority.

“On that day, the worst day in U.S. history, I saw the best in humanity—I saw the best in Americans. I saw people putting their lives on the line, common people; regular civilians, being brave. And I remember thinking to myself, ‘If these civilians can be this brave, us in uniform, we have to be three notches above them,’” said Will Jimeno

Jimeno spoke about his team leaving the 2nd tower (South Tower, WTC 2), walking through the Concourse that connects both towers to get to the 1st tower (North Tower, WTC 1). At this point, they were still under the impression that only the 1st tower had been hit. While walking through the concourse, a huge explosion rocked the 2nd tower. 

“One of the best pieces of advice I got when I was in the military, and something I hope you can carry with you no matter what line of work you’re in, is: always follow somebody into a bad situation who knows what they’re doing, your chances of coming out are greater.”

Under the guidance of Sergeant John McLoughlin, Jimeno and his team ran towards a freight elevator shaft. The South Tower collapsed. “At that moment, we lost Christopher Amoroso and Antonio Rodriguez. Leaving myself, my sergeant, and Dominick Pezzulo buried alive.”

Pezzulo freed himself and attempted to extract Jimeno. Then, the North tower collapsed, taking Dominick Pezzulo’s life.

American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the North Tower, 1 World Trade Center, at 8:46 a.m. The South Tower, 2 World Trade Center, was hit by United Airlines Flight 175 at 9:03 a.m. It collapsed at 9:59 a.m., followed by the North Tower (WTC 1), collapsing at 10:28 a.m.

After several hours of being buried, around 8 o’clock that night, they heard voices in the distance: “United States Marine Corps, can anybody hear us?” Two Marine Corps Reservists and a civilian had gone against orders for first responders to not enter the building because it was so dangerous. Those two Marines were Sergeant Jason Thomas and Staff Sergeant Dave Karnes.

“NYPD ESU Truck 1 came in—Scott Strauss, Paddy McGee—and a civilian that came off the street who was a former EMT, jumped into this hole, which was indescribably dangerous, and put their lives on the line for three hours, to get me out,” recalls Jimeno.

“The loss of life on that day was extreme. And that’s why we as Americans need to never forget. Never forget all the people at the World Trade Center, at the Pentagon, [on Flight 93], we can never forget all those that were lost that day. And we must never forget all the men and women from that day that fought for our country [in] the War on Terrorism, and are serving today.”

Jimeno also spoke about the importance of faith, hope, and love. “Live your life no matter what. Don’t pity yourself. Pick yourself up, move forward. That’s what we did as a nation on that day,” said Jimeno.

“The worst attack in U.S. history, the darkest day in United States history—we came together as Americans to overcome the evil that tried to bring us to our knees.”

“That American flag is not made out of cloth, it is made out of the blood of true patriots that come from all walks of life, all skin colors, all religions, all political views. We are free because of that flag,” Jimeno said. 

“If a kid that came from Colombia can love this country that much, those of you who are blessed to be born in this country—you should cherish it, you should adore it.”

Will Jimeno ended his speech with a famous quote, “‘All that is needed for the triumph of evil, is for good men to stand by and do nothing.’”

“Make sure you’re doing your part to make this world a better place by practicing being kind, and remember those three words; faith, hope, and love,” continued Jimeno.

“God bless each everyone one of you, god bless all those in the military—my brothers and sisters, first responders—the police department, the fire department, EMT’s—you guys are my real true heroes. You will always be my heroes. And remember something: you deserve happiness. Through your service, make sure that you’re happy. Don’t let the things that we see and do affect your life, because you deserve happiness.”

May we all remember and honor those who lost their lives during the 9/11 terrorist attacks, those who passed away much later as a result of injury or illness from the attacks, and also all of the members of the Armed Forces who were killed or injured fighting the War on Terror during Operation Enduring Freedom.

Destiny De La Cruz is a budding journalist with a passion for photojournalism. As a Fresno State alumni, she earned a bachelor's degree in Mass Communication & Journalism, the Film & Media Arts option with a minor in Anthropology. She has an interest in all things film, food, literature & outdoors.