A Day of Unity, Remembrance, and Resilience

I’d been mayor for three years. Raley Field/Sutter Health Park had opened the year before, and we’d just cut the ribbon on the River Walk.

I woke up early the morning of 9/11 to an answering machine message that the World Trade Center was in flames after an attack. Like most of America, my city was still on dial-up service for the Internet and smart phones didn’t exist. I had a pager, not a text-enabled phone. Today, we take for granted that you could find out all the details at will. But not then.

Here’s the thing. The three-story headquarters of the Port of West Sacramento was called the World Trade Center. The building also happened to be West Sacramento’s interim city hall. So I grabbed yesterday’s clothes from next to my bed and rushed down the street to respond to the crisis.

But our local World Trade Center was intact. No fire. No first responders. No crisis. And, before dawn, no people. Puzzled, I went back home. I turned on the TV, and saw the full horror of what had happened and what was unfolding. Shock, rage, patriotism, loss, fear, and moments of hope and grateful admiration for heroes—I felt every emotion all at once.

In a moment of national crisis, we rally together. Not only to act, but also for the simple purpose of being with one another, united. We didn’t have text chains, Discord, social media, Twitch, or any way to connect virtually. It had to be in person. So my colleagues at City Hall and I put out the call: join the whole community for a vigil at the RiverWalk at dusk. This was to be a first, as we had never had such a large public gathering, at least not with just a few hours’ notice.

I arrived at the RiverWalk, ready to join in solidarity and mourning with a few dozen or maybe a hundred of my neighbors. But thousands showed up, and not just from West Sacramento. United not by the terror but by our local bond and national resolve.

Today, I hope you will join me for a day of somber remembrance, putting aside the division that has come to define our politics. We are in this together, we are stronger together, and we will always find light in unity, drawing from the bonds that tie us as neighbors, as a community, and as a nation.