Ten years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the Valley's best-known 9/11 memorial marked the anniversary Sunday with a solemn ceremony that evoked vivid memories of that tragic day.
From the crackle of emergency radio-dispatch calls to bagpipes that wailed "Amazing Grace," the event at Schneider Electric's California Memorial in Clovis detailed the horrific day and its sorrow-filled aftermath.
Several hundred spectators and people in uniform -- from police and fire to military and ambulance personnel -- stood somber and quiet, even after a light rain began to fall.
"It still brings tears to my eyes when I hear these stories," said Clovis resident Peggy Miller, who attended the ceremony with her husband, Michael, a former Schneider employee.
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The event at Schneider Electric -- formerly Pelco -- was one of many Valley events marking the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that saw New York City's Twin Towers fall, the Pentagon hit and a plane intentionally crashed in rural Pennsylvania before it could reach its target.
There was a custom-car show at the Biola Community Center, a "Remembering 9/11" concert at the Warnors Center for the Performing Arts and a ceremony in Mariposa, among others, that marked the day.
But the Clovis event might have been the most emotionally wrenching, both for its quiet focus on the tragedy and on the memories of December 2001, when then-Pelco President and CEO David McDonald flew 1,150 uniformed and grief-stricken New York firefighters and police officers to California for the memorial's dedication.
Some people who attended Sunday's event said they had not been back to the memorial since it was first dedicated a decade ago.
As much as Sunday's event at Schneider brought tears and sadness, another event at Todd Beamer Park in northeast Fresno seemed to show the resilience of life in the U.S., with families walking to the event from nearby neighborhoods and children climbing around on the play structures.
Former New York firefighter and now Valley resident Andy Isolano attended both events. In the past, the commemorations had been too painful, and he could never bring himself to invite his mother to attend from New York. But Isolano is trying to put the tragic day behind him and this year -- for the first time -- his mother flew out from New York City to attend the local commemorations.
"This has been one of the hardest years leading up to this," Isolano said, "but it's good for me. I'm hoping to put a little closure to it."
Still, at Todd Beamer Park, he had to gather himself several times while recounting Sept. 11, including watching from the roof of his firehouse as the second plane, United Flight 175, hit the World Trade Center's south tower.
"We knew it was not an accident," he said. "It was an act of terror."
After some brief opening remarks from Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Cullers, the Schneider Electric event began with the dispatch tapes: "The World Trade Center Tower No. 1 is on fire ... send every available ambulance, everything you've got, to the World Trade Center now."
Emergency lights then flashed and sirens blared from police, fire and ambulance vehicles located behind the memorial. A bell was rung -- a tradition that dates to telegraph days to indicate a line-of-duty death, this time to commemorate the police and firefighters who died that day -- and the memorial's flag was then lowered to half staff.
Bagpipes were played and wreaths were placed at the memorial. After "Amazing Grace" came a 21-gun salute and a flyover by three helicopters. Then "God Bless America," the "Star Spangled Banner" and the release of doves.
Through it all, spectators were silent.
After the event, spectators and those in uniform took photos and sought autographs. Isolano was particularly popular.
Squaw Valley resident Penny Hernandez -- who brought daughters Meghan, 16, and Leah, 23 -- had Isolano sign her decade-old Pelco Press California Memorial Special Edition publication.
"It was my honor to be here," said Hernandez, a retired U.S. Forest Service firefighter.
Besides Isolano, Chief Anthony Whitaker from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police Department and retired New York firefighter Billy Hayes -- both 9/11 survivors -- also attended the event.
At Todd Beamer Park -- named for the man who stormed the cockpit of hijacked United Airlines Flight 93 on Sept. 11, 2001, along with five other men -- more than 100 people turned out.
Families sat on lawn chairs, and the smell of hot dogs barbecuing wafted through the air in a more relaxed, though no less significant, setting.
Even a microphone snafu and a bit of rain didn't interfere with the event, which also featured a flyover. A California Highway Patrol car's hand microphone proved an adequate stand-in for the sound.
Fresno resident Gwen Gettman said she was grateful for the courage of those who died and the sacrifice of everyone who tried to help them.
"It's nice to be together with other people who want to show their appreciation."