Retired Pasadena Pilot Spearheads 9-11 Memorial on New York Drive

Rotary & Other Clubs, Dedicated Volunteers Took Concept to Fruition in 2 1/2 Weeks

On a day sprinkled with hundreds, perhaps thousands, of commemorations of the lives lost in the terrorist attacks on US soil on September 11, 2001, one particular event in Pasadena, CA stands out.
Just a few short weeks ago, Capt. John Mc Dannel, a retired United Airlines pilot and a Pasadena resident, reflected that New York Drive in Pasadena would be a fitting place to hold an event remembering 9-11…those lost a decade ago, those first responders who continue to put themselves in harm’s way daily, the military who protect us stateside and abroad, and the commercial flight crews and passengers, whose work lives and travel changed forever on that fateful day, with the addition of all manner of security, threats, in-flight marshals, secured cockpits and much more.

"This would never have happened if Sierra Madre, Pasadena After Hours and Altadena Rotary Clubs didn’t put their shoulders into it," reflected Mc Dannel.
Since 2002, Mc Dannel has already made strides to memorialize those lost by planting and hand watering 140 oaks from his own truck along the rather bereft, mostly commercial section of New York Drive. He’s also recently gained some ground at the county and city of Pasadena level on his vision to make part of the area into a park for a permanent local memorial to 9-11, including turning part of the Eaton Canyon Debris Basin into a lake that Sierra Madre Pasadena and Altadena residents can enjoy long into the future.”
Swift work, conference calls, and a level of cooperation and camaraderie toward a common goal between public and private, military and civilian groups, channeled Mc Dannel’s feelings about the tragic events into a very personal, well oiled and choreographed remembrance attended by nearly a thousand. Sierra Madre Police Chief, Marilyn Diaz commented Tuesday, "If I could say one word on the flawless execution (of the event), it would be precision."

The event included a flyover of jets from Miramar Naval Air Base (which usually takes months to arrange), speakers from all walks of life touched by that day a decade ago, a military presentation of colors, twenty one gun salute and taps, band music from Pasadena Community College and La Salle High School, poems, readings, honoring of first responders, a riderless horse with the traditional backwards facing boots for a lost comrade, invocations and benedictions from clergy.
In just two and a half weeks, three local Rotary Clubs, Pasadena After Hours, Sierra Madre and Altadena, the Rotary District 5300, Pasadena Optimist, Masonic Lodge 272, VFW, US Navy Leave and USS Pasadena Foundation, Military Order of the Purple Heart #1898, American Legion East Pasadena Post 280, High Point Academy, Lender Processing Services, Inc., Viet Name Veterans of America #446, Santa Anita Model A Club, crew members of United and American Airlines, elected officials and others formed an army of volunteers to make the ten year anniversary in Pasadena a landmark event.

In particular, little has previously been done to acknowledge the continuing role of and the impact upon commercial flight crews in the post 9-11 era. At the New York Drive event, that oversight has been righted. Crew members from several airlines solemnly gathered for photos and acknowledgement in front of the flag and podium.

Perhaps the most personal and insightful moments of the day came from Dr. Denise Campbell, a USC Doctor of Education, who was at the World Trade Center to attend a conference on 9-11-01. She was shaken from her hotel bed by the first plane impact and rushed to the street in her bright red pajamas, only to view the unfolding horror from street level. She read a letter she wrote in 2002, recalling the events, and her sight of the first jumper from the towers, necktie flying vertically as he fell to earth. Those in the audience clearly felt as if they were right there with her, reliving the day, and her perspective of healing.

As other WTC survivors, first responders, pilots, officials told their stories and connections to the event, the presenters and attendees seemed to bond. State Assemblyman Anthony Portantino seemed to sense the bond, and asked those in attendance to introduce themselves to one another, seemingly further cementing the bond of common cause.

For Mc Dannel and his corps of local Rotary Clubs and other community volunteers, two big steps toward the permanent memorial have already taken place. A permanent highway type sign proclaiming that a section of New York Drive has been designated a memorial to 9-11 was completed and displayed to the crowd of about a thousand. It is ready and approved for installation on the street.

Second, the Tamkin Foundation, owners of Hastings Ranch Plaza where Sears is located, donated $25,000 to build the stone signage for the memorial. The group hopes to gather enough donations to purchase land for a park on the Drive, and to construct a large memorial wall surrounding I-Beams requested from the wreckage of the World Trade Center in New York.

Dan Alle of Sierra Madre Rotary said of the event, "With his vision and courage, Capt. Mc Dannel took something negative and turned it into something positive for our community," to which Mc Dannel reflected, "My goal was to establish the first step of a four step process for the 9-11 Memorial, and have people walk away with a sense of patriotism and to have a warm feeling when they left. I especially wanted to help young people gain a perspective and begin to understand the gravity of this terrorist attack on America."

To donate to the New York Drive Memorial fund, a restricted 501C3 established by the Pasadena Parks and Recreation Foundation, visit www.Pasadena911Memorial.org  for more information.

Posted: 9/21/2011 03:25:00 PM
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