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Anniversary of 9/11 marks day of reflection in Pahrump

Local public officials turned out en masse for Tuesday’s 9/11 memorial ceremony at the Calvada Eye.

The fourth annual event was organized by members of the Pahrump Valley Rotary Club.

Barbara Thompson, president of the organization, said the observance was held at a special section in the Calvada Eye, known as the Reflection Area.

“The 9/11 Reflection Area was the vision of our former Rotary President Roy Mankins,” she said. “Several years ago, he got us together and told us what he wanted to do. We all put our heads together and I think we came up with this very beautiful area. We had about a half a dozen speakers here today.”

Among those speakers was Nye County Sheriff Sharon Wehrly who was an employee at the Nevada Test Site 17 years ago.

Wehrly recounted exactly how she learned of the terrorist attacks, which destroyed New York’s World Trade Center towers in Lower Manhattan.

“At first I did not believe it,” she recalled. “I was headed to the Emergency Operations Center when a lady came running down the road yelling that we were being attacked. I asked her from where, and that’s when she explained that the Twin Towers were just hit by airliners.

“At that point, we all went to the Emergency Operations Center, where we made a few phone calls and started evacuating the test site. We ended up closing the entire site, where the Nye County Sheriff’s Office assisted in that closure. It remained closed for two days.”

Auxiliary unit

Two 14-year residents, Larry Snow and Michael Miraglia, attended the ceremony as members of the Nye County Sheriff’s Office Auxiliary unit.

Snow said he was actually on an Alaskan cruise when he first learned of the attacks.

“We were ready to return to port and we heard,” he said. “We were watching it on TV, and when we were finally able to get back to port, we could not get back to the states because we couldn’t get a flight out. Everything was really hectic, and all of the air traffic was shut down. My only thought was all about getting back home. I also wanted to join the Marine Corps again because I was mad as hell.”

Miraglia, at the time, was working for the state of Illinois and was in his office in Deerfield when news broke about the attacks.

“We had a TV on when we heard that a small aircraft hit a World Trade Center tower,” he said. “Less than 10 minutes later, we learned about a second plane hitting the other tower.

“When that happened, everybody got the chills, because we thought we were going to be at war with somebody on that day. Nobody really knew what was going on. While we were working, we had both the radio and television on, where we listened to the news all day long. Everybody was very upset, angry.”

Special ladder truck

As with previous observances at the Calvada Eye, first responders from Pahrump Valley Fire and Rescue Services attended the ceremony with a very prominent vehicle.

“Our Tower Ladder apparatus actually served at both World Trade Center events in 1993 and again in 2001,” Fire Chief Scott Lewis said. “As a result, we like to bring it out and display it during the communities 9/11 observances over the years.

During past 9/11 observances, the tower mechanism on the ladder truck was raised aloft and displayed the American flag. This year was slightly different due to an emergency service call in the early morning hours on Tuesday.

“We were fashionably late today because we were out on a structure fire throughout most of the night and this morning,” Lewis said.

“Of course because of the fire, we didn’t have an opportunity to set it up today. However, it is here and people have the opportunity to observe it. I would also like to thank the Pahrump Valley Rotary Club for hosting this assemblage.”

Additionally, Lewis spoke about how he and his crews are reminded of 9/11 each and every day at the fire department’s Station One facility.

“Several years ago, our union president, Tim Murray, went out and acquired a piece of the World Trade Center in the form of a 3-foot beam,” Lewis noted.

“It came to Pahrump Valley Fire and Rescue, where we had it mounted on a pedestal. We also have a memorial surrounding it. It’s our way of reminding ourselves about 9/11 each and every day when we come to work.”

In regard to thwarting future terrorist attacks on American soil, Sheriff Sharon Wehrly said she believes the government is doing a lot of work behind the scenes.

“We are doing an awful lot as a nation to prevent other terrorist attacks and much of it is undercover,” she said.

“The FBI has been doing a really good job collectively, and they have managed to find a lot of terrorist cells that we don’t even hear about. It’s good for the American people to have some faith in our government as far as trying to prevent these types of attacks.

“Every citizen should be aware of what’s going on in the world, and realize that our freedom is very fragile,” Wehrly said. “It’s the responsibility of each and every one of us to keep our eyes open. If we want to live in a free country, we must realize that freedom isn’t free.”

Throughout the hour-plus ceremony a bell was tolled, at roughly the time when the planes hit the towers, struck a portion of the Pentagon and crashed in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

The attacks killed 2,996 people, injured over 6,000 others, and caused at least $10 billion in infrastructure and property damage after four passenger airliners were hijacked by 19 al-Qaida terrorists.

Contact reporter Selwyn Harris at sharris@pvtimes.com, on Twitter: @pvtimes

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