Sept. 11, 2001 has forever changed America—and Hermosa Beach—in the previous decade. But locals have used the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center to not only remember the victims lost but also honor the servicemen and women who are continuing to fight for the U.S.
Above is a photo gallery of Hermosa Beach's 9/11 memorial park that sits on Pier Avenue, between Valley Drive and Ardmore Avenue, in honor of lives lost and service. Below are the stories, which have previously published on Patch:
Gila and the bench
Hermosa Beach's 9/11 victims memorial bench sits in the heart of town on the greenbelt, in large part due to Chaplain Gila Katz.
"I was at Ground Zero from Sept. 16 to Oct. 26. I'm a disaster chaplain, so I was called out by the Red Cross," Katz said. "The first time I got to Ground Zero, I was in the staging area. I had a battalion chief, and he had been working steadily. I said, 'Why are you here?' And he said, 'I've lost 12 of my men.' All I could do was hug him."
That moment touched Katz so deeply that she wanted to put a permanent stamp on the city of Hermosa Beach in memory of those who died on Sept. 11.
"Everybody was in it," Katz said about the planning of a 9/11 memorial bench. "I never had a naysayer. There wasn't one person who said no."
The Hermosa Beach Parks and Recreation Commission, School Board, and City Council all approved the memorial bench project. The Kiwanis Club financed the project as well as private donations from residents.
With the help of many community members, Katz and the city last year. Buttons that were collected by students adorn the bench and represent the nearly 3,000 victims who died in the 9/11 attacks—they have a magical way of touching the people who see them, Katz said.
"You tell them about it [the concept behind the bench], there isn't a dry eye," Katz said. "We wear buttons...it's a personal piece."
The bench's rededication
Two thousand, nine hundred ninety-seven buttons rest upon the on Pier Avenue in Hermosa Beach—each representing a victim of the tragedy.
In a rededication ceremony Thursday, , obtained by the , to remember those victims and mark the 10th anniversary of the attacks.
"Sept. 11 was such a tragic event in our lives in the U.S. and in the world," said the Rev. Mike Olsen of , who organized the ceremony. "We’ve had men and women serving at great risk and sacrificing their lives for the last 10 years. This provides a way for us to take a minute to reflect on the service of those young people."
For Olsen, the events of Sept. 11, 2001, had a personal connection.
On that day, Olsen was in the Marshall Space Flight Center, assisting NASA with communications. When he was first told that the World Trade Center had been hit, he figured it must have been a small aircraft.
The reality of the situation soon dawned on Olsen as he heard news of a second plane.
As a retired U.S. Army officer who was wounded in Vietnam, Olsen had previously worked in an office of the Pentagon that was destroyed on Sept. 11.
He lost friends and acquaintances from the Pentagon that day, watching the tragedy unfold from the Marshall Space Flight Center.
"We sit back in our relative comfort and the beauty of Hermosa Beach and we forget that there are still people dying for us to make sure that we can sit back and enjoy that beauty," Olsen said. "That’s a problem that we can hopefully help through the memorial, to raise awareness or remind people."
The 9/11 memorial bench last year.
Editor's Note: A special section off HuffPost titled "9/11: A Decade After" features a collection of stories about how Sept. 11 has changed the nation—and some come from our nearly 1,000 Patch editors nationwide.