HUNTINGTON BEACH (CBSLA.com) — A somber and emotional memorial was held Sunday in Huntington Beach — to mark the 15th anniversary of the attacks on 9-11.
CBS’s Greg Mills was there as hundreds stood tall and with hands over their hearts sang the national anthem.
The memorial brought back a flood of memories of the day and days and months following the attacks.
“I don’t think you ever recover. You learn to live with it,” said Officer Vincent Zappula who was working that day for the NY Port Authority.
After the attacks at the World Trade Center, he was dispatched to Ground Zero and spent every day there for the next six months.
“I remember my friends that we lost, fondly,” Zappula said.
Zappula and other officers from New York, New Jersey and Huntington Beach — all involved in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks, were honored Sunday.
“All I kept thinking was, we’ve gotta find, we gotta find these people,” recalls retired Capt. Kevin Devlin of the Port Authority Police.
He added, “I’ve been at plane crashes. I’ve been at shootings. Nothing could prepare me for what I did or what I saw,” he said.
Two groups of Huntington Beach Police Officers went to Ground Zero to help in the massive recovery effort.
“Words can’t describe it. I’m getting emotional talking about it now. Overwhelmingly sad,” said Sgt. Chris Tatar of the Huntington Beach Police.
While 15 years have transpired for the men and women who went to Ground Zero, for them it’s almost like time has stood still.
Zappula for one, told Mills it didn’t feel like 15 years, at all.
“More like 15 days,” he said.
The theme today: Never Forget.
Mills said there were distinctive reminders all around. Two pieces of steel recovered from Ground Zero and two granite pillars to depict the towers of the World Trade Center.
“It’s awesome. Huntington Beach is a great place and New York City is a great place and I’m glad we can bring them both together,” said Tatar.
Huntington Beach resident Dave Garafalo was among hundreds of people who came out to honor those who lost their lives and to pay tribute to the first responders who helped saved countless others.
“These policemen and firemen stood up and did their job better than anyone has seen before,” Garafalo says.
The Newcombes of Huntington Beach came because they felt it was important to share their memories of the day with their daughter who wasn’t around in 2001.
“She’s 13 and I think it’s very easy for us, to think that we will remember — but the next generation needs to know, too, and not forget,” says Carina Newcombe.
The wife of one of the Port Authority officers told Mills he really appreciates the tributes and memorials on 9-11 but he cannot personally attend them as they bring up too many painful memories.