Originally Published: September 11, 2008 11:52 p.m.
PRESCOTT VALLEY - More than 150 people marked the seventh anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001, with speeches, songs and the unfurling of the American flag Thursday morning on the Civic Center grounds.
Patriot Day struck a somber mood, except when Prescott Valley retiree Harold Ebbens provoked laughter as he updated the lyrics of "This Land is Your Land" by referring to a computer monitor.
The ceremony drew veterans, police officers, other town employees, firefighters, elected officials and ordinary people who honored 2,977 victims of the terrorist attacks. The ceremony lasted 45 minutes, 15 minutes beyond the time organizers allotted.
Mayor Harvey Skoog set the tone at the start of the event, stating, "Today is a day of remembrance, a very special day." He described the hijacking of the four airplanes by terrorists as "a sneaky, unprovoked attack on America."
America awakened to a "sense of patriotism" after Sept. 11, Army veteran Dr. John Tapia of Prescott told the gathering. He said the attacks claimed the lives of people from 90 countries.
Tapia, who served in World War II and the Korean conflict and earned seven Purple Hearts, quoted a note to the terrorists from a man whom he identified as an "18-year-old patriot":
"You hit the Twin Towers (of the World Trade Center), but you missed America."
Brief speeches followed from Goldie Murphy, a Mesa woman who lost a son in a helicopter crash in Iraq; and Brenda Dickinson, who was working in air traffic control at the Prescott Airport on Sept. 11.
"I was not there at Ground Zero (in Manhattan). I was here at ground zero," Dickinson said. She worked as an air traffic control specialist/flight service with the Federal Aviation Administration until retiring two weeks ago.
Murphy, of Mesa, heads the Arizona chapter of American Gold Star Mothers Inc., to remember sons and daughters who died while serving in the military. Her son, Hershel "Dan" McCants Jr., 33, died when the Chinook helicopter he was piloting crashed on Feb. 18, 2007, in southeastern Afghanistan.
The Patriot Day ceremony touched two immigrants who attended the event: Angelo Serino of Prescott Valley and Jasmine Crowl of Prescott.
"If I was to tell you (how he felt), I'd start to cry," said Serino, a native of Italy whose wife, Deanna, works for the Prescott Valley Public Works Department. "We did not deserve that (attack), but God is watching over us each and every day."
Crowl, a native of China, agreed with Serino, saying Americans need to keep "the memory alive."
She lost a son, Cornell Chao, 36, in a helicopter crash on Jan. 28, 2007, in Najaf, Iraq, and is trying to form a Gold Star chapter locally.
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