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Community Recalls Pain, Hope at 9/11 Gathering

First published in the Sept. 16 print issue of the San Marino Tribune.

The Chinese Club of San Marino invited the community last week to acknowledge the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, a series of airline hijackings committed by 19 militants associated with the Islamic extremist group al-Qaida against targets in the United States.
In 1996, the Chinese Club of San Marino had instituted a day on which it acknowledged the city’s police officers and firefighters, choosing Sept. 11 as a reminder of the emergency telephone number 911. On Sept. 11, 2001, several members of the Chinese Club of San Marino were preparing for that year’s salute to local first responders when word of the attacks circulated.

Photos by Mitch Lehman / TRIBUNE Maggie Lee, president of the Chinese Club of San Marino, greets attendees.

“Since 1996 until present, for 26 years, it has been the tradition of the Chinese Club of San Marino,” said Maggie Lee, the organization’s president. “We express our foremost support and respect to the fire and police departments and all law enforcement personnel of the city of San Marino on every Sept. 11 by providing the breakfast as a gesture of ‘thank you from the bottom of our heart.’”
Lee then acknowledged the underlying reason for the assembly.
“Today’s event also solemnly reminds us that nearly 20 years ago on Sept. 11, 2001, there were horrendous terror attacks on American soil,” she said. “Although the pain and grief of the loss of many precious lives still lingers decades after, we do have hope. America has changed. The tragedy has brought American people a stronger awareness and willingness to fight against terrorism for the unity and prosperity of our beloved country.”
San Marino Fire Chief Mario Rueda served on the rescue and recovery mission at Ground Zero shortly after the attack on the World Trade Center.
“Each year on Sept. 11, the images of New York on that fateful day will forever be etched in my memory,” Rueda said. “The magnitude of the destruction, the large columns of smoke and dust, but most of all, I think of the firefighters and police officers on that day who put themselves in harm’s way to save people they would never know.
“I believe in honoring the memories of the brave firefighters and police officers when I pin the badge on my uniform in the morning, trying to live up to that level of bravery, professionalism and commitment they demonstrated on that fateful day. I see our own San Marino firefighters and police officers put on their uniforms each morning, check their equipment, and get ready for the day. They too commit to putting themselves between the residents of this community and danger.”
San Marino Police Chief John Incontro remembered two friends and associates, R.J. Cottle and Rick Centanni, who were killed in Afghanistan during the retaliatory war that followed the attacks. Incontro also mentioned the “hate following the attacks aimed at Muslims, Arabs, Sikhs and Asians.”
“We are now facing hate again and we must remember we are all one in this country,” Incontro said.

Fire Chief Mario Rueda served at Ground Zero for 12 days after the attacks.
Police Chief John Incontro recalled friends who died in the War on Terror.

Now in his 25th year at The Tribune, Mitch Lehman is Editor and Sports Editor in addition to being the public address announcer for ten sports programs at San Marino High School. Mitch is one of only a handful in the community to receive the ‘Very Special Person Award’ from the San Marino PTA at the annual Founder’s Day ceremony, was acknowledged as a 'Terrific Titan' by the San Marino High School PTSA, was named an Honorary Paul Harris Fellow by the Rotary Club of San Marino and received a National Honorary Merit Badge in Journalism from the Boy Scouts of America. He has received two independent Pulitzer Prize nominations and in the past three years, Mitch has won seven awards and is a thirteen-time finalist in the California News Publishers Association's Better Newspapers Contest. In 2015, the press box at Titan Stadium was re-named 'Lehman's Loft' in his honor. You can reach Mitch at mitchlehman@sanmarinotribune.com.

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