American Fare served up at Stateline |

American Fare served up at Stateline

Susan Wood

Tuesday night’s American Fare to raise funds for the American Red Cross was just what South Lake Tahoe Police Officer Chuck Owens ordered after recent tragic incidents on both coasts drained his enthusiasm.

Owens, sitting proud on his horse, said he knew some of the New York City-area officers missing in the rubble where the World Trade Center towers stood.

Just as he was getting his steam back, a 9-year-old girl was killed on his watch on the South Shore last Friday, sending his emotions reeling.

“After Friday’s incident, I was emotionally drained,” Owens said.

But it’s the people who he serves who remind him why he chose his line of work.

“When I feel the energy and support that came from those people, you can’t imagine what that means to me,” he said.

He was re-energized Tuesday night as passersby approached him in the Horizon Casino parking lot to acknowledge his role in the community.

Most agreed they attended to be closer to their community that evening. Others planned for the future, as Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land” towered over the sound system speakers.

Age proved no barrier to capturing the American spirit.

“I’m glad I helped my community by singing because I represent my country,” 12-year-old Ali Martinez said, exiting the stage where she sang with the South Tahoe Middle School choir. The group received rousing applause from the attentive audience.

From cheerleaders and Elvis impersonator to Girl Scouts and a costumed Dorothy without Toto, hundreds of people made their best American showing for the rally. Many were clad in red, white and blue garments that some had pulled out of that bottom drawer.

South Shore resident Alicia McCarthy collected memorabilia as she held 15-month-old Connor wearing an oversized firefighter’s hat. She brought him “to write this into his baby book, so I’ll always remember it.”

From the Sept. 11 tragedy to the rally two weeks later, Tahoe Douglas Fire Chief Tim Smith will never forget this time.

“No one is ever going to forget what happened,” Smith said.

He took the stage and thanked the crowd for “digging deep in their pockets and donating to the American Red Cross.” All the proceeds collected that night are earmarked for the organization’s relief efforts.

Smith was friends with one of the fire chiefs, Ray Downey, who perished in the rubble following the collapse of the buildings.

“A lot of people lost friends. But when we lose three to 400 firefighters all at one time, the loss is indescribable,” he said. The fire chief predicted many retirements would materialize from the tragedy.

The United States averages 100 firefighters killed in the line of duty in any given year.

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