PALMDALE — Eighteen years after the devastating terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Antelope Valley public safety and civic officials and hundreds of residents gathered Wednesday morning to remember and honor those lost.

The ceremony filled the courtyard at the entrance to the Antelope Valley Mall, where a large American flag hung from the extended ladder of a Los Angeles County Fire Department fire engine fluttered over the gathering.

“As smoke billowed from the wreckage sites on Sept. 11, 2001, heroes rushed in to rescue victims. The hours turned into days, weeks and months. Our nation was scarred, the destroyed buildings, marred fields and shattered lives. But people came together and pledged, ‘We will never forget,’ ” said Palmdale Sheriff Station Capt. Ron Shaffer, who served as Master of Ceremonies.

In addition to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s and Fire Departments, the event featured representatives from the California Highway Patrol, U.S. Forest Service and California State Prison Los Angeles County.

The solemn ceremony featured music by the Palmdale High School Chamber Singers, lowering the flag to half-staff while white doves were released, and closed with playing of “Taps” with uniformed representatives of all the public safety organizations.

“We are here today to remember and honor all those we lost on that tragic day and to pay tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice to help save others,” CHP Capt. Eric Broneer said.

“It is safe to say we will never know how many heroes we gained that fateful September day. Although the 400 first responders who died on Sept. 11 are often remembered as heroes, we’ll never know how many countless acts of heroism were performed by average citizens in the World Trade Center towers or the jets that flew into them, soldiers and government employees at the Pentagon or passengers on Flight 93 as it crashed in a field in Pennsylvania,” he said.

The Los Angeles County Fire Department’s Color Guard marked the moments of the attacks by ringing a bell, just prior to the playing of taps.

While joining other remembrance events across the nation in honor of those killed on Sept. 11, 2001, Wednesday’s gathering also paid tribute to those first responders locally who have died while in the line of duty and are honored on the Fallen Heroes Memorial in the courtyard at the mall entrance.

The three pillars of the memorial, inscribed with the names of those lost, are a tangible reminder to the community they served of their sacrifices.

“It’s about them,” Palmdale Mayor Steve Hofbauer said, pointing out a family with young children at the event, “being able to walk by and ask Mom and Dad what’s that about. It’s about those kids.”

Hofbauer emphasized the impacts of the 2001 attacks are still being felt by first responders today who are dying from and dealing with severe health issues sustained at the site of the fallen World Trade Center towers.

His brother, a Los Angeles County firefighter who was among those who went to New York City to relieve local crews at Ground Zero, today has bladder cancer that is attributed to his time amidst the toxic rubble, he said.

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