Yuba City Fire Department Battalion Chief Eric Hankins opened Saturday’s 9/11 remembrance by telling everyone on the grounds of the Sutter County Museum where he was the moment the first plane struck the first tower of the World Trade Center.
Hankins said he was getting ready to take his wife, Michelle, into labor for their planned delivery of their second child.
Right about that moment, Hankins said he got a call from his administration chief alerting him to turn on the news.
“At that moment, I couldn’t understand what I was looking at,” Hankins recalled. “I remember (the admin chief) thought a small plane crashed into the World Trade Center.”
But as they spoke, Hankins said the second plane hit the towers.
“It was then we knew America was under attack,” Hankins said.
In total, 2,977 people were killed on 9/11 – 343 of which were New York City firefighters. There were also 412 state emergency workers, 37 police officers of the Port Authority of New York and the New Jersey Police Departments, 23 police officers of the New York City Police Department, eight emergency medical technicians and paramedics, three New York State Court Officers and one patrolman from New York fire patrol who all succumbed to what Hankins called a “senseless terror attack.”
He urged the Yuba-Sutter public on Saturday to always keep these people in your hearts for giving the ultimate sacrifice on a day that changed many aspects of life in the United States.
Hankins said firefighters in his department and across the country have a stronger sense of awareness now as they pursue their duties.
“We still fight fires the same way but with terrorism and everything that has gone since 9/11, there is definitely lot more awareness,” Hankins said.
Larry Robarge, 65, of Yuba City remembers exactly where he was the moment the country was victimized by terror mastermind Osama bin Laden 20 years ago.
“I had just finished breakfast at a coffee shop in Sacramento and saw something on the TV with the airplane,” he said. “You didn’t know what was going on.”
An unclear image, but one that sticks with Robarge to this day, he said. He called it heartbreaking to see the flag at half-staff.
“I had never seen this ceremony before where they raise (the flag) up to the top first where it belongs, but it then has to be lowered,” Robarge said while choking up. “It’s gripping.”
Young, veteran tour guides come together for 9/11
Benson Nickel wasn’t even born when bin Laden was killed by Navy Seals years after the 9/11 terrorist attack that killed nearly 3,000 people, including multiple New York police and fire members.
The 10-year-old Yuba-Sutter resident only began studying U.S and world history three years ago because he said he became fascinated with the amount of displays and war artifacts at the Museum of Forgotten Warriors in Marysville.
“I love it (after) I saw all that stuff,” Nickel said. “It’s amazing.”
On the 20th anniversary of 9/11, Nickel, along with his younger brother Wilson, 6, are volunteer tour guides at the Museum of Forgotten Warriors. Vietnam War veteran Austin Webb, 90, of Yuba City is a guide as well. Together they do multiple tours of the facility each Saturday and were all present on Patriot Day.
Nickel admitted that he started touring just two weeks ago, and instantly became hooked at the depths of information provided at the Museum of Forgotten Warriors.
“There’s so much stuff it would take me two years to get to all of it,” Nickel said.
On Saturday, Nickel highlighted many of the displays during the short tour for the public. He came across the Camp Far West display, which has his favorite fighter plane, the P-38.
Camp Far West Reservoir is located about eight miles east of Wheatland.
He also discussed a tube display that featured the remains of Americans who lost their lives in battle.
Then at the Vietnam War display, Webb’s uniform was featured alongside numerous pictures and artifacts of Webb’s time in service.
Webb said there was one picture of him on guard duty holding a weapon that he did not know how to shoot.
“I’d be told how to shoot it if we got attacked,” Webb said.
Webb signed up for the Vietnam War after his wife, Mary, was drafted.
“I volunteered because I wasn’t going to let my wife go (alone),” Austin said.
Webb said on the 20-year anniversary of 9/11 that while it was a significant tragedy, it also was an avoidable one.
“I don’t think it should have happened, we had plenty of warnings,” Webb said. “I feel sad for all who died (and) for all who had to go through it.”