Bagpiper Kasie Talbot set the tone for the start of an annual ceremony in Aptos Friday to honor the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S.
Personnel, staff, family and friends from Aptos/La Selva Fire, Watsonville Fire, Central Fire, Capitola Police and others gathered at Resurrection Church to hoist a giant American flag skyward, with two 100-foot aerial ladder trucks, as the centerpiece of the event.
The attacks resulted in 2,977 fatalities, more than 25,000 injuries, and widespread, long-term health consequences.
Fire officials read the names of the 343 firefighters and 60 law officers who died in the line of duty at the World Trade Center in 2001. The event was varnished with a veil of smoke from ongoing wildland fires around California as the morning sun hung in the sky as an eerie dull orange ball.
I had an interesting talk with a man named Norman on the 69W Metro bus from Santa Cruz to Watsonville Thursday morning. He said he was 65 and has been on the road for decades. He said ”no place” was his home, and he seemed fine with it. San Diego, Sacramento, San Francisco, San Jose, Watsonville — those are just a few places he’s been hanging out lately.
Norman was an exceedingly friendly man with nothing but hope and positive energy about him. He had a bedroll, several rolled up towels, a coat and a loaded backpack sitting next to him on the rear bench seat of the bus. When we got off the bus in Watsonville at the Metro Center I offered to buy Norman a breakfast burrito at D’ La Colmena next door, which he gladly agreed to. As we stood in line (I got their papa ranchera burrito and he got their ham and eggs burrito), I told him to grab a drink, my compliment. Norman quickly pulled a tall Budweiser beer can out of the cold case.
I was happy to treat this stranger to the start of his day, a nomad drifting right out of Jack Kerouac’s “On The Road” novel (which, by the way, has threads leading through Watsonville and Pajaro), through our area. He seemed to be aiming nowhere and coming from the same place and carefree about all of it. As he headed off along West Lake Avenue with his breakfast and beer, he turned and tossed me a smile and blended in with the smoke and quiet of the day.