Tuesday, September 12, 2006

9-11 Five Years After (J-school Piece revised)

Children squealed as blasts from seven police shotguns broke the quiet during a 21-gun salute.

Taps was played by Albuquerque Police Officer Gregory Robertson as a cloud of gray smoke slowly drifted away, bringing to a close a noontime 9-11 remembrance service. The event on civic plaza commemorated the fifth anniversary of the fateful day when nearly 3,000 lives were taken in four airline hijacking terrorist acts.

The ceremony featured political, military, law enforcement and fire service leaders and New Mexican Gold Star Mother’s whose sons were killed in Afghanistan and the war in Iraq since 9-11. Five-year-old Kindergarteners from Deloris Gonzales Elementary School lead the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance in the English, Spanish and Navajo languages.

“Today we are all New Yorkers.” Mayor Martin Chávez, who emceed the city-sponsored event, said in reference to the number killed in the collapse of the World Trade Center complex after being struck by two Al Qaeda hijacked airliners.

Above, Kirtland Air Force Base Commander Col Robert E. Suminsby, left and New Mexico Army National Guard Gen. Kenny Montoya salute.

Below, Albuquerque’s Police Chief Raymond Schultz, Fire Chief Robert Ortega, New Mexico Attorney General Patricia Madrid and Chief Public Safety Officer Nick Bakas sit on the stage.
Attorney General Patricia Madrid, the Democratic candidate for New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District also spoke at the event.

“We must move in a new direction,” she told the crowd during her speech.

Her statement prompted City Councillor Don Harris, a Republican, to leave the stage adding political controversy to the otherwise subdued event.

“When she came up to speak, even though she wasn’t on the program, I sensed that something was amiss,” Harris said. "And when she started talking, I thought she actually said the word national security. At that event, it seemed awful political to me. We were there to mourn people, and it was supposed to be a non-partisan event, and I thought she turned it into a campaign event, at least in part, and I didn’t want to support that.”

Madrid’s staff later denied the remark was meant to be partisan campaigning.

“9-11 is a significant event, Major Anthony Guerrero of the New Mexico Army National Guard’s 111th Brigade Military Police unit said, “It’s a remembrance for five years. You know… It’s a war against terrorism; we’re all saddened by the day but we’re all coming together as a nation on this day, a very important event.”

Guerrero served in Afghanistan with the 93rd troop command and just got back from a one-year tour eight days ago. He said, “We trained the Afghan army in how to take over for the country.“

When asked how the effort was going, Guerrero said: “It’s going well. It’s tremendous progress, tremendous progress. It’s a worthwhile event, a worthwhile mission, and we’re all supporting our commanders in that.”

Albuquerque Deputy Chief of Police Paul Chavez, no relation to the mayor, spoke during an interview about the significance of the event for law enforcement officers.

“Because New York City lost 23 police officers, the New Jersey/New York Port Authority lost 37 police officers and our partners in conscience, firefighters, they lost well over 300, it’s kind of a moral obligation for every police officer, every 9-11 to stop and observe,” he said.

“Regardless if you’re a current police officer or a retired police officer you have to stop at 9-11 and not just remember the tragedy for the American people but what it meant to our profession.” Chavez, the head of the uniformed Field Services Bureau, said.

The crowd, estimated between 500 and a 1,000, sat under the canopy of the civic plaza as religious leaders from three world religions -- a Rabbi, a Christian minister and a Sheik representing the Islamic community of New Mexico addressed the crowd.

“We shared our views on tolerance and brotherhood and working together as one community to solve the issues that plague mankind in terms of things that don’t lead to tolerance and hatred and violence,” Sheik Jamal Martin, above left with Chávez, said. “I spoke about issues of how the real axis of evil are tyranny, oppression and fascism and how if we use truth, justice, mercy and compassion to overcome that fear, doubt, ignorance and superstition, we can eradicate those evils and remove the mark of Cain that plagues mankind.”

Cadets from both the Albuquerque Police and Fire departments flanked the stage. Uniformed officers from various city and county law enforcement departments as well as military personnel stood behind the seated public.

Carrying a model of the world trade center and wearing a black T-shirt with the Statue of Liberty and New York emblazoned on it, 16-year-old Chad Hooker said.

"I came here today because I really reach out to those who died on that day. I feel really bad. I just like to represent it, just care for all those who died that day,” he said.

Hooker wants to become a fireman.

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