Somber processions, poignant church sermons and the mournful ringing of "the last alarm" echoed across the Bay Area on Sunday as emergency responders and the citizens they protect commemorated the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, paying tribute to the thousands killed that day and those who tried to save them.

And at the end of the day, during an interfaith vigil for friendship and peace organized by Bay Area Muslim groups, children in Santa Clara released doves into the bright sky.

The terrorist strikes that brought down the twin towers in New York, struck the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and plowed into a field in Pennsylvania occurred 3,000 miles across the country, but connections in Northern California run deep.

At Pleasant Hill's civic center park, where 150 people gathered, longtime resident Pamela Brady brought with her a small wedge of battered steel beam from the World Trade Center tower where her younger brother, New York City police officer Vincent Danz, died.

"What happened to us," Brady said of her family's loss, "happened to all of us."

Her sentiment was shared across the region -- at ceremonies from Oakland to Lafayette to downtown San Jose and the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds.

During Mass at St. Joseph's Cathedral Basilica in San Jose, firefighters and police officers received an extended standing ovation. When those same responders, numbering slightly more than 100, began their three-block procession down Market Street to Fire Station 1, a crowd of close to 1,000 followed them all the way.


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"We got the opportunity to express our appreciation," said Patricia Kennedy of San Jose, who escorted her daughter's Brownie troop to the fire station, where 343 pairs of firefighter boots neatly lined the driveway and spilled into the street. The Brownie troop spent Friday night tying each pair of boots together with name tags of fallen firefighters; tiny American flags were placed inside each pair.

"It's important because a lot of people died," said Kennedy's 8-year-old daughter, Grace, a Brownie and third-grader at Holy Spirit school in San Jose. "We have to show respect."

As the Los Gatos-Monte Sereno Police Pipes and Drums played "Amazing Grace," a historic San Jose fire bell was rung to signify that a fallen comrade was "returning to quarters."

At Sugar Mill Landing Park in Union City, hundreds of people gathered at a Flight 93 memorial, where 40 large rectangular "remembrance stones" line up like dominoes on a curved path. Each is carved with the name of a San Francisco-bound passenger or crew member killed that day after a group of them stormed the cockpit against the hijackers and prevented the plane from slamming into its intended target in Washington, D.C.

Bridge of sighs

Boy Scouts Joshua Drake and David Alarcon of Troop 273 raised the flag to half-staff at the memorial's Plaza of Hope, which is decorated with tiles made by Union City children. After a 21-gun salute, an honor guard placed red roses on each marker.

"They died for our country, that's what I figure," said Pearl Harbor veteran Mickey Ganitch, 92, who handed the flag to the Boy Scouts. "They're the heroes."

In Lafayette, some 300 people gathered on a bridge over Highway 24, a tradition that started spontaneously on Sept. 11, 2001, when people were searching for a sense of community in the midst of the tragedy. On Sunday, the bridge was festooned with American flags. Cars honked constantly on the highway below. "It just makes my heart feel good, when you go stand out there on that bridge," said Patty O'Day, of Walnut Creek, who returns every year.

At Park Boulevard Presbyterian Church in Oakland, about 100 people gathered at an afternoon concert intended to "give us the chance to properly grieve about the losses we have seen and experienced," said the Rev. George Gilchrist, interim pastor. "We hope you might be in a better place -- spiritually and emotionally -- for moving forward from coming to this concert today."

At the fairgrounds in Watsonville, hundreds gathered to honor the sacrifice of so many.

Robin McKinney, of Aromas, attended with her husband and daughter to show their patriotism. McKinney's son, Austin Mitchell McKinney -- a Marine Corps corporal serving in Afghanistan -- called during the ceremony from a satellite phone from overseas. The ceremony "was very touching," she said. "I really felt like God was in this ceremony."

In Martinez, U.S. Rep. George Miller faced a phalanx of Martinez police officers and spoke of the significance of that day. "It became a day when ordinary people did extraordinary things," Miller said. "We must never forget."

All Americans affected

At the Muslim Community Association in Santa Clara, 350 people gathered to show compassion and sympathy for the victims and families of 9/11, and to build bridges across faiths. Many Muslims faced discrimination and suspicion in the aftermath of the attacks.

The tragedy happened to all Americans, including Muslims, said Samina Sundas, executive director of American Muslim Voice. "We need to send the messages of peace and hope and inclusion."

At the San Jose firehouse, U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren lamented the discord in American politics in the years since the attacks. She remembers the day 10 years ago, after the Capitol had been spared because of the bravery of the Flight 93 passengers, when members of Congress gathered on the Capitol steps and sang "God Bless America."

"We all felt the certainty of our solidarity on that day," she said in front of the firehouse. It's time, she said, to "rededicate ourselves to collaboration, unity and compromise."

Contact Julia Prodis Sulek at jsulek@mercurynews.com or 408-278-3409. Staff writers Sharon Noguchi, Kristin Bender, Cathy Kelly, Alan Lopez and Suzanne Bohan of the Bay Area News Group also contributed to this report.