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9/11 events honor victims, the first responders and others who have given their lives

Posted: September 12, 2010 12:11 a.m.
Updated: September 12, 2010 4:30 a.m.

Carolyn Newell, of Castaic, writes a letter to a soldier serving overseas during the event.

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Three thousand miles away and nine years later, the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks were remembered throughout Santa Clarita Valley.

Poems were read, songs were sung, patches, plaques and honorary T-shirts were offered for sale at Central Park in Saugus on Saturday.

The message of the poetry, the songs and the slogans on the patches was consistent: "We remember."

It was a day of patriotic prayer led by Dr. Sheryl Reaves, pastor of Fresh Fire Intercession Ministries.

A smattering of people gathered around the stage, most who settled into comfortable folding chairs came prepared for a day of remembrance.

The purpose of Saturday’s tributes was to uplift, comfort and encourage the families of 9/11 victims, and honor the public servants and fallen soldiers of Santa Clarita, Reaves told The Signal earlier in the week.

"Suzon (Gerstel) and I and several other moms started this group because our loved ones were over there," said Barbie Aston, describing how her group, Prayer Angels for the Military, formed.

Her son Army Spc. Matthew M. Aston served in Iraq from 2000 to 2005.

The friends in her group of half a dozen mothers, all with children serving overseas, shared stories under a tent at Central Park, inviting visitors to sign a table-sized banner for troops serving in Iraq.

Pvt. Michael Landis is serving overseas while his mother, Mary, and grandmother Angela Roberto helped the other moms in the group Saturday. While Tommy Mann remains deployed with the U.S. Army in Afghanistan, his mother, Terrie, helped out as well.

The first steps taken after 9/11 are linked to subsequent steps being taken today, the moms pointed out.

With Thanksgiving and Christmas approaching, Gerstel said her group is trying to find an open space somewhere in Santa Clarita Valley where they could collect supplies between mid-October and mid-December to send overseas.

At the memorial service Saturday, against a backdrop of religious music coming from a live band on a stage nearby, the local moms were also trying to raise money to ship a mountain bike purchased for military chaplain Gary Williams in Iraq.

Also keeping the memory of 9/11 alive was Santa Clarita firefighter Jerry Thomsen, president of the Los Angeles County Firemen’s Benefit & Welfare Association.

Thomsen secured a spot in Pasadena’s Rose Bowl Parade with his planned float honoring those first responders who gave their lives trying to save others on Sept. 11, 2001.

His float is meticulously designed to represent those who died that day and those who saved lives.

The centerpiece of the float is a fire hydrant found under the rubble of the toppled Twin Towers in New York City.

The banner on his float says it all: "Remember. Reflect. Renew.

"It’s pretty amazing to be featured in the parade and to get this chance to pay respect, not only to the first responders but to all the victims and all the military personnel," Thomsen said.

Relatives of some of the 9/11 victims have a place reserved for them on the float, Thomsen added.

Between Thomsen’s tent and the tent of mothers of children serving in Iraq and Afghanistan was a tent providing shade for an assortment of tiny Bibles and larger ones.

"Jesus Christ is the logical answer for people who are hurting, and to people who have experienced tragedy," said Bill Creitz, vice president of the Santa Clarita camp of Gideons International.

"And that’s why I believe we’re here, to offer Jesus as a solution to the people who are grieving."

Other 9/11 memorial events took place in Stevenson Ranch at Dr. Richard H. Rioux Memorial Park and at the Santa Clarita Activities Center on Centre Pointe Parkway.

A reading of the names of the 2,976 people killed in the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, was read at service at Veterans Memorial Plaza in Newhall.



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