HANFORD — Local veterans, firefighters, law enforcement officers, EMTS, students and citizens of Hanford all gathered together Monday at Civic Park in honor of those first responders who died in the line of duty during 9/11.
Hanford’s 100 year flagpole, standing on the corner of Eighth Street in downtown, was raised after being unusable for the past 20 years.
The flag was flown over the U.S. Capital in Washington D.C. this past year on the fourth of July, and donated by Congressman David Valadao.
AMVETS Post 1893, AMVETS 1893 Ladies Auxiliary and the veteran nonprofit organization Our Heroes Dreams will all be teaming up to add renovations to the flagpole and rededicating it to the Kings County first responders.
Justin Bond, CEO of Our Heroes Dreams and a military vet who served 10 years, said some of those renovations would include landscaping around the flagpole and adding a plaque dedicated to first responders.
“I went over to the war and got shot, and lost a leg, and everyday people come out and thank me,” said Bond. “These men very rarely get thanked, our firefighters, our police, our sheriff's, our EMTs, our ambulances. Every day they go out and save lives.”
Bond also thanked Shelli Barker, who started taking her kids and family to the fire and police stations and serving them meals. She wanted to go bigger but didn’t know how, so she partnered with Our Heroes Dreams and Amvest to coordinate this ceremony.
“Even though 9/11 happened across our nation, it can happen here at any moment. I am confident in our first response teams that they would handle it,” said Barker. “I have seen them hard at work, and I’ve seen them saving lives. It’s an amazing sight to see.”
Guest speakers at the ceremony also included representatives from Valadao’s office, as well as Andy Vidak and Rudy Salas.
Honorary guests that were paid special tribute included California Highway Patrol Lt. Commander Don Tripp, Kings County Sheriff Dave Robinson, Hanford City Fire Chief Chris Ekk and Kings County Fire Chief Clay Smith.
Many first responders showed up to be honored, and students from Monroe Elementary School were also in attendance.
Justin Mendez, a representative from Valadao’s office, said he realized many students now had not been born yet when 9/11 happened, making it all the more important to remember.
“A lot of us that are adults now, we remember where we were and everything that happened that day. But taking my kids to daycare today, I realized we are coming to a point where students wouldn't have been born," Mendez said. “Events like this help us remember those that we lost, those that helped and those that responded.”
Firefighter Rick Levy of the Kings County Fire Department said remembering is good.
“I think it helps to bring it back to the public, keeping it fresh in our memories," Levy said. "As first responders, it's a good pat on the back."
Levy remembers working at a parts store in Stratford, having only just enrolled at the fire academy when 9/11 happened.
“I was supposed to go to class that night when the planes hit. Everyone in the store told me, you're getting drafted, we are probably going to go to war," Levy said. "That’s just what the nation thought.”
After the dedication ceremony, a barbecue picnic lunch followed. The Hanford carousel was in operation for children in attendance and the CJ Liscum Band also performed throughout the event.