9/11 parade focused on unity

rparsons@mercedsunstar.comSeptember 10, 2013 

Merced’s Vince Cole was watching television news at work on Sept.11, 2001, when the second plane slammed into the World Trade Center towers in New York City.

“I still can’t believe that an outside entity would attack us on our own homeland,” Cole said Tuesday.

Many remember the terror of seeing planes crash into buildings and watching those structures collapse.

Bill Baker recalls something about the events of 9/11 that he feels too many people have forgotten.

“For a very short period, just a few days, we all pulled together, and there was really strong patriotism,” Baker said Tuesday. “Democrats, Republicans, conservatives, liberals – no matter what, we were all together.”

Maria Botwright of Atwater remembers that feeling of unity.

“I think we all rose to the occasion, at least as best we could,” Botwright said.

It didn’t last long.

“I hope we can bring that back (today), for a moment, at least,” Baker said.

It has been 12 years since 19 terrorists crashed four hijacked passenger jets into the World Trade Center’s twin towers in New York, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and a rural Pennsylvania field.

According to the 9/11 Commission report, 2,981 people died in the attacks.

Baker and others hope people will unite again today to reflect on the sacrifices made by the men and women who have died in wars since 9/11.

The 9/11 Remembrance Parade begins in Merced at 5:30p.m. at G and Main streets, ending with a ceremony for fallen soldiers at Courthouse Park.

The parade and ceremony are sponsored by the Chrome Cowboy Patriots, a Merced-based motorcycle group dedicated to helping and honoring those in the military.

The parade ends at the Welcome Home Heroes tribute wall, a traveling memorial honoring U.S. soldiers who have fallen since 9/11. It was erected at the park on Tuesday.

Mike Dillman, a pastor in Manteca, built the tribute wall in 2001. The elaborate 12-panel installation contains the names of every military service person who has died in combat since 9/11 and gives special recognition to local heroes.

Following the ceremony, the Merced motorcycle group will donate $12,320 to the Welcome Home Heroes Foundation, a Manteca-based nonprofit that provides funding to veterans waiting for their government benefits.

“We pay first and last month rents, utility bills, whatever they need while they’re waiting,” Dillman said.

Last year, Dillman said, the nonprofit foundation gave away more than $200,000.

In addition to memorializing the tragedies of Sept.11, 2001, the event is a tribute to active-duty military service men and women.

Additionally, Baker said he hopes the event will bring attention to veterans issues at home.

“The number of homeless military veterans in this country is just completely unacceptable,” he said.

Last year there were more than 62,000 homeless military veterans in the United States, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“That should simply never happen,” Baker said. “We all need to do what we can to help them.”

 

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