Sept. 11 memorials throughout the Coachella Valley (Gallery)

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By Joyce Nugent

Coachella Valley communities held commemorative events to honor those who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001, on the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Twenty years ago, on that Tuesday morning in September, extremists linked with the Islamic group al-Qaeda hijacked four airplanes and attacked multiple structures in the United States.

Two planes destroyed the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, a third plane hit the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia. The fourth plane was brought down by the hijackers in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania when courageous passengers fought to prevent the plane from reaching its target in Washington, D.C.

Almost 3,000 people were killed during the 9/11 terrorist attacks. That figure includes 343 firefighters and paramedics, 23 New York City police officers and 37 Port Authority police officers.

That story echoed throughout the entire Coachella Valley at numerous events this Sept. 11, held at fire stations, parks and an air museum.

In Palm Springs at Fire Station 2, the ceremony began at 9:11 a.m.

In addition to remembering those that lost their lives during the terrorist attack, the day was also a celebration of the first responders from California who were present at Ground Zero to assist with search and rescue missions, including 60 firefighters from Riverside County as well as six local firefighters.

“We remember all the heroes of that day,” Palm Springs Fire Department Deputy Chief Jason Loya said.

A 9/11 memorial sculpture was unveiled by the Cathedral City Council, Cathedral City Public Arts Commission and Cathedral City Fire Department in a ceremony that concluded with a moment of silence at 8:46 a.m. to coincide with the time American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center.

The city of Indio gave away 300 small trees in honor of the victims of 9/11 and Marine Cpl. Hunter Lopez, who was killed in Kabul, Afghanistan.

“Planting these trees will eventually provide shade, a beautiful canopy around our city and a generational legacy in Hunter’s honor,” Indio Mayor Elaine Holmes said in a prepared statement.

“In addition, it’s a small way we can recognize the significance of the 20-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and the many sacrifices made by our troops since that time.”

Multiple World War II warplanes from the Palm Springs Air Museum flew over 26 fire stations in the valley and High Desert. The aircraft carried the American flags honoring local military personnel who lost their lives in the Global War on Terrorism.

As the sunset and the day of remembrance came to a close, City Council Member Kathleen Fitzpatrick issued a call to action at a candlelight vigil in La Quinta.“Right after the attack on our country, we were at our best. We saw beyond our differences and unified in one vision,” Fitzpatrick said. “Let’s go forward from now and be worthy of the sacrifices of those families that were left behind. Let’s honor the heroism and courage of the first responders who lost their lives and those that are still suffering. Let’s be our best selves again, willing to do what’s right, working together for the benefit of all Americans.”

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