American Legion ceremony marks anniversary of 9/11 |

American Legion ceremony marks anniversary of 9/11

Susan Wood

The sounds of bells, prayers, gunshots, vocal chords and bagpipes signaled Sunday the fourth anniversary in South Lake Tahoe of one of our country’s most horrific attacks.

About 50 people gathered Sunday at the American Legion Hall parking lot to pay tribute to public safety officers, members of the armed services and loved ones lost in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Hurricane Katrina victims were also recognized as an example of a hopeful nation’s resolve during times of crisis.

About 3,000 people perished at the World Trade Center in New York, Pentagon building in Washington, D.C., and a farmer’s field in Pennsylvania. More than 1,800 had been killed on the Iraq battlefields. And thousands of fatalities are estimated in New Orleans.

Speakers used the congressionally recognized Patriot Day to carefully weave a connection between the tragedies as ways for America to come to grips with its challenges. And there have been many.

A bell was struck 11 times for 11 U.S. wars, starting with the American Revolution and ending with the War on Terrorism.

“They serve with tremendous honor,” El Dorado County Sheriff Jeff Neves said at the podium. He invited attendees to wave to the men and women who protect their community “because at times it can be a thankless job.”

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In turn, Legion Cmdr. Gene Ross, the master of ceremonies, gave them a nod for risking their lives every day.

American Legion chaplain Bob St. Angelo led the group in prayer, issuing a call for healing and recovery.

For all this, Danielle Underhill was in the mood to bring her two young daughters to the ceremony as an educational experience.

“I don’t want my kids to understand all the pain, but I don’t want them to forget why we’re free,” she said before the ceremony.

She remembers being home during the 9/11 attacks and consequently being “glued to the television for a year” afterward.

Underhill added she’d like to see more resources go to help victims of the Gulf Coast hurricane area and doesn’t believe “in policing Iraq” because the United States could be spread too thin throughout the world.

“If we have a broken family, we need to care for it,” she said.

By the same token, she’d like to stay focused on finding terrorist cells.

Pete Shaw, who was honored with a plaque by the legion for serving in the Air Force in northern Iraq for three months during the conflict, agreed to a certain extent. He wants the U.S. to stay the course in its mission and believes the conflict can be won. There are good reasons.

“I met people brutalized by Saddam Hussein,” he said, recalling one man who told him he witnessed his 11-year-old daughter being raped under Hussein’s regime.

“That makes it not difficult to justify (the war on terrorism),” he said.

He understands the urgency to pull out but attributes the call to today’s society wanting “instant success.”