Memorial services, prayer vigils and service projects were held across the Southland Tuesday to mark the 11th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
The Los Angeles Fire Department Historical Society hosted an early morning ceremony at the Fallen Firefighters Memorial. LAFD Chief Brian Cummings hailed the firefighters and other first-responders who rushed into the doomed World Trade Center towers in New York, saying they were “armed only with compassion and trained only with a desire to help their fellow man and rush into those dangerous situations.”
More than 400 firefighters and police officers were among those who died in the attacks. Cummings also attended a service at the LAFD’s Frank Hotchkin Memorial Training Center in Elysian Park, where a 23-ton, 22-foot-tall steel column that was part of the World Trade Center’s lobby structure is on display.
The training center also has a sculpture, “Towering Memories,” that includes the names of nearly 3,000 people killed in Manhattan, at the Pentagon and in a Pennsylvania field, where another plane hijacked by al-Qaida operatives crashed.
“We have a duty to keep their memories alive and ensure that their spirits and the stories of their deeds live on in our hearts,” Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said.
LAFD Station 88 in Sherman Oaks held an evening remembrance ceremony attended by Cummings and other officials, including City Councilman Tom LaBonge. Brad Burlingame, whose brother, Charles, was the pilot of the hijacked plane that crashed into the Pentagon, was also scheduled to attend.
The fire station is home to California Task Force 1, the first urban search and rescue team called to the site of the collapsed World Trade Center towers. The station also has on display a 750-pound piece of the World Trade Center and a 100-pound piece of limestone from the Pentagon.
At Pepperdine University in Malibu, nearly 3,000 flags – one for each of the 9/11 victims – were displayed at the Alumni Park lawn in what has become an annual tradition. They will remain on display until Sept. 19.
Pepperdine alum Tom Burnett was among the passengers on United Flight 93 who fought back against the terrorist hijackers, leading to the crash of the plane in Shanksville, Penn.
The Muslim Public Affairs Council recognized the anniversary with an interfaith prayer service at the Islamic Center of Southern California in Los Angeles, while Santa Monica held remembrance ceremonies at each of its fire stations beginning at 6:45 a.m., and featuring the ringing of bells at 7 and 7:28 a.m., signifying the times the World Trade Center towers fell.
A man was arrested in connection with the Sept. 5 robbery of a Bank of America branch in East Los Angeles that involved the kidnapping of the bank’s manager, who was falsely told by her two abductors that a bomb had been strapped to her body, authorities announced Wednesday.
Ray Vega, 33, of Bell, was arrested Sept. 6 and booked on suspicion of conspiracy and robbery, according to Huntington Park police Lt. Neal Mongan.
Investigators declined to provide specifics, but KCAL9 reported that Vega was the boyfriend of the bank manager who had been kidnapped. The Los Angeles Times, citing unnamed sources, reported that the suspect and bank manager were acquaintances.
According to Mongan, Vega was released last Friday on $100,000 bail.
“The investigation remains very fluid, active and is ongoing,” Mongan said in a statement.
“Investigators have been working around the clock. We will not be discussing any specific details regarding this investigation.”
According to authorities, two suspects abducted the female bank manager in Huntington Park, strapped what they said was a bomb to her body and then sent her into the bank at 941 S. Atlantic Blvd. around 8:30 a.m. Sept. 5 with instructions to toss cash through a back door, which she did.
The robbers got away with “a decent amount of money,” sheriff’s Capt. Mike Parker said, declining to say how much.
At least one suspect had a gun, according to authorities.
The kidnapped woman, who was uninjured but distraught, was questioned by police detectives and FBI agents. She had been kidnapped in front of her apartment in Huntington Park on the morning of the robbery, Parker said.
A sheriff’s deputy took the alleged bomb off the woman and placed it on the curb, where it was detonated by a robot, Parker said.
“Investigators determined that although it looked like an explosive device, it was not explosives,” Parker said.
Bomb experts also examined the bank manager’s car, as well as the bank building. The area was declared safe about an hour later, Parker said.
The robbery was reminiscent of a 2003 heist in Erie, Pa., where a pizza deliveryman who had a real bomb attached to his neck robbed a bank and then was killed when the device blew up as state troopers surrounded him.
Anyone with information on the robbery was asked to call Huntington Park police at (323) 584-6254.