By Mary O’KEEFE
It was not a morning of politics. It was not about religious beliefs or of cultural differences. It was about remembering lives lost, a nation coming together and showing gratitude for those who will show up no matter the danger to help others.
The 9/11 Crescenta Valley Remembrance Motorcade included about 55 vehicles featuring classic cars, fire engines and police units. The route began at Ralphs Market in La Crescenta and ended at Los Angeles County Fire Dept. Camp 2 in La Cañada Flintridge.
As the motorcade left Ralphs parking lot and moved onto Cross Street, the chimes of St. Luke’s of the Mountains rang at 9:02 a.m., the time the first plane hit PST. The chimes continued as the motorcade made its way to the CV Sheriff’s Station and then north onto Briggs Avenue.
This is the third year of the motorcade and the first year that the procession passed Mountain Avenue Elementary School. Led by California Highway Patrol, the excited cries of the Mountain Avenue students could be heard. They lined the sidewalks along Mountain Avenue toward the school. Parents, teachers and students cheered and yelled “U.S.A.”
“Oh my goodness. Oh my goodness,” motorcade co-founder Dwight Sityar said as he approached the school.
Each year Sityar is overwhelmed by the response from the community but even more so this year as the number of cars in the motorcade has increased and more schools asked to be part of the route.
The event is not easy to organize. CV Chamber of Commerce members Steve Pierce, Jean Maluccio and Sityar work closely with CHP and CV Sheriffs to get the traffic logistics timed. Then there are the schools, businesses and residents that are invited to come out to see the motorcade as it drives by their locations.
Sityar and Prom Plus Club alums Brianna Beck and Dylan Sylvester spent Sept. 10 going from house to house and business to business, dropping off flyers to inform the community of the 9/11 observation.
As the motorcade passed through Crescenta Valley neighborhoods, residents came out of their homes to wave as the vehicles drove past.
“Thank you. Thank you,” Sityar said to every resident who came out for the motorcade.
But it was the schools that brought tears not only to Sityar’s eyes but to those of almost everyone who was involved in the event.
Mountain Avenue, Monte Vista, Valley View, Dunsmore, La Crescenta and Lincoln elementary schools had students cheering loudly and holding signs that thanked emergency responders and the United States. Students, teachers and staff filled the sidewalk in front of Rosemont Middle School.
It was also the first time Clark Magnet High School participated and they did not fail to impress. Both sides of New York Avenue was lined with students and teachers.
Crescenta Valley High School also participated.
“I want to mention La Cañada,” said Sityar.
As the motorcade drove into La Cañada, the streets were relatively quiet; that is, until the motorcade approached private and public schools like St. George’s Episcopal Preschool, Flintridge Preparatory School, Crestview and St. Francis High School.
Then the motorcade made a right turn onto Oak Grove Drive and that is when Sityar’s eyes teared again.
“Oh my. Oh my,” Sityar repeated over and over again as he drove past all of the La Cañada High School students who even had their band out playing as the motorcade passed.
This was the impressive sight that got all involved in the event talking. Students were on all levels of the school’s campus, in the parking lot and along the sidewalks.
“I want to thank La Cañada High School principal (Ian Mcfeat) and Tanya [Wilson],” Sityar said.
He said he received an immediate positive response when he first approached Mcfeat about the school’s involvement. He was then turned over to Wilson, the safety officer at LCHS, who was instrumental in organizing the students and teachers.
“She really put this together,” he said.
Later that evening the Remembrance took a more somber tone with an event at Bob Smith Toyota. Valley View Elementary third graders were on hand to sing to the emergency responders who were there.
“As far as we know there are other parades and ceremonies that recognize 9/11 but we in Crescenta Valley have the only motorcade of this kind,” Pierce said.
L.A. County Supervisor Michael Antonovich spoke to those in the audience.
“I was in Washington, DC,” Anotonovich said about Sept. 11, 2001, “in the office of the INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service) when we heard the first plane hit.”
Hijackers aboard American Airlines Fight 11 crashed the plane into the 93 through 99 floors of the North Tower of the World Trade Center.
“At the time we thought it could have been pilot error, then the second plane hit and we knew it wasn’t an accident … we were under attack,” Antonovich said.
About 10 minutes after the first plane hit, the second plane, United Airlines Flight 175, was taken over by hijackers who crashed the plane into the WTC’s South Tower.
Later, American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon in Washington, DC. Passengers on the hijacked United Airlines Flight 93 mounted an attempt to take back control of the aircraft. Hijackers deliberately crashed the plane into a field in Somerset County, Pennsylvania.
In the end the terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001 killed about 3,000 people, including those on the hijacked planes, those in the buildings that were targeted, the field in Pennsylvania and emergency responders.
Antonovich thanked everyone for coming and added a special thank you to the young kids in the audience, some who had been born after the attack.
“It was encouraging to see how the nation pulled together,” he said.