“There’s one thing that this heinous attack didn’t change. Our values. The very best of American values were displayed from the minute that first jet hit.”
Clay Garrison, Brigadier General and Commander of the California Air National Guard, was called into duty when four commercial jetliners were hijacked and slammed into the Twin Towers and Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.
On Monday, in front of more than 700 students and a handful of community leaders inside Yosemite High School’s Badger Stadium, Garrison described his thoughts and feelings from that fateful day.
Through orders to take to the skies as an Air Force pilot and potentially shoot down the hijacked jets, Garrison said he received word that neither he, nor anyone else in the country had ever experienced.
“My commander told me the entire air space of the United States was being shut down,” Garrison said. “That is the first time the plan, which had been in existence since the 1950s, was activated ... but although it was such a heinous day, we should be proud of our response.”
Garrison described how during the attacks - which killed nearly 3,000 people and injured over 6,000 more - Americans were seen running in to help, not running in fear.
“We are resilient people,” Garrison said. “We run to the sound of gunfire. We are people of action ... someone thought that by killing even a single American that we would retreat. That’s not who we are. We are defined by our spirit to rebuild. We have a legacy of determination and resolve, and we know exactly who we are.”
Garrison is responsible for more than 4,500 military and civilian personnel serving at 10 Air Guard locations across the state.
During the ceremony, sponsored by Sierra Tel, the Yosemite High Chamber Singers sang the National Anthem and “America the Beautiful” as the YHS chapter of California Cadet Corps raised the colors. Richard Lamontagne gave both a prayer and benediction, and Dan Rule, Sierra Tel’s Business Development Manager and a U.S. Army veteran, invited up all veterans who served as far back as World War II to be recognized.
“This gives the people that lived through their service and through wars, and the attack on our country, a time to remember,” said David Linn, Madera County District Attorney and a veteran of the U.S. Navy who stood with his brethren as they received a standing ovation. “It also gives our youth a chance to learn, and I really appreciate that.”
“This brings together members of the military, and non military, to let them know about the importance of remembering such a terrible day,” said Terry Cole, commander of the Caring Veterans of America, Inc. “It takes a lot to protect our freedom, so we appreciate the chance to honor the lives of all service members and responders, as well as those who lost their lives in 9/11.”
Laura Norman, Sierra Tel’s Public Relations Supervisor, served as emcee for the event. The Marine Corps League Griswold Mountain Detachment 1121 provided a 21-gun salute and rendition of Taps. In attendance were members of law enforcement and government, as well as the Veterans of Foreign Wars.