CLOVIS, Calif. (KSEE) – Hundreds gathered at the California 9/11 Memorial in Clovis Saturday morning to honor all those who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001.
Eerie radio dispatch recordings from that fateful morning in New York City played over a loudspeaker at 8:46 a.m. at the memorial ceremony in Clovis to mark the moment 20 years ago America became under attack. Andy Isolano is a former New York City, Fresno, and Clovis firefighter who shared his story at the ceremony. On the morning of 9/11, Isolano had just come off an overnight shift at Ladder 108 in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
“Those of us that got off that morning went up on the roof of the firehouse to watch what was going on,” Isolano told the crowd. “That’s where we watched the second plane come in, and we knew at that point it was not an accident.”
During his speech, Isolano was flanked by Central Valley first responders and members of the military. He recounts seeing the Twin Towers fall just blocks from Ground Zero. Two decades later, he says the memory still feels fresh.
“By the time the smoke had cleared, I had lost 13 close friends, 343 fellow firefighters, and nearly 3,000 people were dead.”
In his speech, Isolano talked about how on this day, many Americans say the phrase ‘never forget.’ Never forget the destruction, and pain that was caused for the families of the victims. But all these years later, Isolano has this message about the fragility of life as the country reflects on all that was lost to this day.
“I don’t want ‘never forget’ to be (about) the visions that I have,” he said. “I want ‘never forget’ to be never to forget how precious life is and how at any moment it could be your last.”
At the end of the ceremony, Isolano was presented an American flag by Central Valley first responders. He says he moved to the area in 2004 and worked as a firefighter and owned a business. He is retired in Florida now but makes the trip back to the California 9/11 Memorial in Clovis every year.
“This original event was life-saving for me, when I came out here the first time things were not good in my life,” Isolano said. “And I came out here and this whole community showed me how much they cared. So I decided at that moment that this is where I wanted to be every year on 9/11.”
The memorial is open year-round, and the annual ceremony is one of the largest of its kind outside New York City.