LOS GATOS — The names of the 40 passengers and crew members killed on Sept. 11, 2001, when United Airlines Flight 93 crashed into a field in Pennsylvania, were read out on the eve of the 22nd anniversary of the terrorist attack — making special mention of two local men who for years have been hailed as hometown heroes for their actions on that day.
The Flame of Liberty Memorial, situated among the redwoods next to the Los Gatos Civic Center, served as a backdrop for Sunday’s Remembering 9/11 ceremony, where a crowd of veterans and local residents paid their respects as a 21 gun salute rang out.
Though thousands of miles from Ground Zero, the tragedy has always felt close for the town of Los Gatos — even 22 years later — since Los Gatos High School alumni Mark Bingham and Todd Beamer were two of the nearly 3,000 people killed on Sept. 11, 2001.
More than two decades later, Los Gatos Mayor Maria Ristow thinks about her former one-year-old who is now 23.
“An entire generation has come into the world after that fateful day and my focus has shifted,” she said. “I still morn for those lives lost in the towers and the Pentagon and on the airplanes. But after raising young adults, I now think particularly about the values that led Mark Bingham, age 31, and Todd Beamer, age 32, to take decisive action on that day.
Bagpiper Lettie Smith performs the song “Amazing Grace” during the Veterans Memorial & Support Foundation Remembering 9/11 event on Sunday, Sept. 10, 2023, in Los Gatos, Calif. (Aric Crabb/Bay Area News Group)
Bingham and Beamer, along with Jeremy Glick and Tom Burnett, breached Flight 93’s cockpit, wrestling the plane out of control of terrorists and into an empty field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, saving potentially thousands more from what is believed to be a planned attack on the U.S. Capitol Building.
Ensuring that an entire generation born after 9/11 knows of the events that took place on that day and the days after seemed to resonate with many in attendance on Sunday.
Retired Maj. Gen. Kent Hillhouse, board president of the Veterans Memorial and Support Foundation of Los Gatos that helped erect the Flame of Liberty, likened today’s post 9/11 generation with his own childhood.
“They need to understand what happened,” the Vietnam veteran said. “When I was a kid, World War II was over and Korea was going on. We learned about World War II in history and about how you don’t want to have wars.”
San Jose resident Sharon Mendelson said that because local students and scouts were involved in the ceremony reading off the names of the 40 Flight 93 passengers and crew members, it gives them “something they can remember” the day by, despite not being born yet.
Medelson still remembers where she was 22 years ago when her sister called at 6:15 a.m. from New York, telling her to turn on TV. At the time, their mother was in New York City.
“You don’t want to forget,” she said. “I don’t want to forget. I want to be here for this.”