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Youth reflect on 9/11
Many of the students assembled Tuesday for the 9/11 memorial ceremony at Maxwell High were not even born when two jetliners smashed into the Twin Towers in New York City and a third crashed into the Pentagon in Arlington, Va.
For those who were just young children, the memories of that day are locked more into the disbelief, horror and utter sadness they saw in the faces of their parents, grandparents and teachers.
"It was kinda scary, and when I went home and saw my grandpa was so sad, it made it worse," said senior Kimberly Wells.
Certainly Searah Robertson could not understand why her day at Disneyland was suddenly called off.
"All the characters were outside and there was a moment of silence," the 16-year-old junior recalls.
Now high school students, Wells, 18, and Robertson are part of the FFA leadership group that organized the 11th annual memorial ceremony at Maxwell High.
And while flags fly at half-staff all around the county, it is the only formal ceremony conducted.
Lauren LaGrande, the president of the group, said it is exactly because she and her classmates were so young and so many others not even alive that the memorial is so critical.
"I think it is important we do this, not only for us, but for the younger generation to remember it happened," LaGrande said.
The event was held in the gymnasium instead of out on the football field for the first time, and after a little technical hiccup, the video "Do I make you Proud?" was shown to honor the firefighters, law enforcement and military personnel that do so much for this nation.
All three groups were represented at the assembly, including Air Force Staff Sgt. Jessica Lum from Beale Air Force Base.
Nearly 3,000 people died in the al-Qaeda terrorist attacks — many firefighters and police officers who rushed into the burning towers not knowing they would collapse.
In addition to the attacks in New York and at the Pentagon, a fourth jetliner, reportedly headed to the White House, was forced down into a field near Shanksville, Pa., by passengers.
For Scott Dudman, the Maxwell area deputy for the Colusa County Sheriff's Department, the images of the day are still haunting.
"I really thought it was a movie," Dudman said when he first saw the news images that morning. "Then the reality set in. I am a combat veteran, and it hit me pretty hard."
Sgt. Neal Pearson, also with the Sheriff's Department, said he knew instantly "nothing would be the same for the world."
Fire Chief Dave Wells was part of a strike team fighting a fire near Oroville when the news began to filter its way to the crews.
"The news, it just crushed everyone. We all went back to our stations, and for whatever reason, the fire just quit," Wells said.
"Then we were sent home to our families."
John Waggoner, with the CHP out of Williams, said the memories of the day are a constant reminder why he and the other emergency service personnel do what they do.
Each member of the FFA team spoke to the assembly, which included students from all the Maxwell campuses.
They used important words such as freedom to carry the message of remembrance.
But there was a message to the future, too.Senior Miriah Westfall, for example, used the word happiness in her speech.
She defined it as "being content with every aspect of life."
If nothing else, Sept. 11, 2001, taught this country not to take for granted even the smallest things in life.