Despite a cloudless blue sky and a gentle breeze following me as the hours passed, setting the stage for what should have been a cheery day, it was anything but that, because it was Sept. 11.
And like so many Americans, I went about my routine, remembering the fallen heroes of that tragic day 11 years ago, which weighed heavy on the nations' collective heart. Perhaps then, it was fitting that subconsciously and not so much coincidently on that day, I finally had the courage to pull over to the side of the road to the very spot where a week earlier, Officer Kenyon Youngstrom was gunned down on the freeway in Alamo. And just as our nation mourned the lives that were lost more than a decade ago, our community was now also mourning the loss of another fallen hero right here in Alamo.
Gazing up onto the hillside where flowers and other tokens of respect were placed, I was looking for some semblance of comfort, just as those who previously stopped to honor Officer Youngstrom. American flags of various sizes swayed gently in the warm wind, as if waving to cars zipping by, beckoning drivers to pay their respects to him and to never forget all of those who have lost their lives in the line of duty.
There is no greater void, then that which Officer Youngstrom's widow and four children are experiencing, and as a community Alamo is reaching out to the family with prayers and monetary donations. Kathleen Ralyea is in two book clubs and a bunco group. She has volunteered to be the point person for these groups and is collecting donations to drop off at Wells Fargo Bank, 3157 Danville Blvd. in Alamo. Likewise, Carol Pierovich, who belongs to another bunco group, said once a year they play for charity and this year they are donating to Officer Youngstrom's family.
"We feel the pain of their loss and wish the family peace, pride in their father and husband and strength through family, friends, community and strangers in a time of such grief," she said.
Wells Fargo is accepting checks made out to the Kenyon Youngstrom Memorial Fund. Alisa Corstorphine, a former Alamo Citizen of the Year, shared with me news that Restorante Forli at 3160 Danville Blvd. in Alamo is hosting an event Sept. 30 at 6 p.m. to benefit the officer's family. I contacted the restaurant's managing partner, Russ Belleci, who told me that after the tragedy, he switched directions regarding an already scheduled event of dinner and dancing with music from Still Rock'N & Friends, whose members, I'm told have performed with the likes of Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Michael Jackson and more. Russ will now mark 20 percent of the gross proceeds going toward the Youngstrom Family, administered through the group Police and Fire: The Fallen Heroes, and there will be more on this wonderful organization in a future column. Tickets for the event are $50, which includes a three-course Italian-style dinner and the music show. The quarterly event usually sells out, so Russ said to call 925-820-1711 to reserve your tickets.
"While thinking about the logistics of this event, I started thinking about this family whose life was just shattered while I was planning a fun evening. So, I became determined that while the event will go on, I decided to dedicate it to Officer Youngstrom's service," said Russ, who told me that vendors are now offering to donate as well, with one offer to match Forli's donation up to $1,500.
Tami Finegold told me that members of her tennis and bocce ball teams have donated individually to the trust fund. "It is unsettling how in an instant, your life can change forever. My heart goes out to this family," she said.
Betsy Fitzgerald told me that she was heading to the bank to make a donation on behalf of her family as well. "This is a sad reminder of the danger that those who protect and serve our community put themselves in every day," she told me.
While I was speaking with the branch manager at Wells Fargo, Chris Bhairo, about the memorial fund, a woman and her caregiver came into the bank a bit agitated and looking for a notary. They had just come from a business across Danville Boulevard that had one, but were told they needed a second witness to get a document notarized. Since there wasn't a notary currently at the bank, Chris didn't hesitate, coming up with a solution. He graciously offered to walk across the street to assist them as a second witness. That's just what you do in a small town such as Alamo: help those in need.
Contact Caterina Mellinger at around- firstname.lastname@example.org.