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West Sacramento’s 9/11 tribute won’t ‘let people forget’

'I'm not going to let people forget' - West Sacramento's Sept. 11 tribute

John Vinson has been commemorating the Sept. 11 terror attacks for more than a decade in West Sacramento. The memorial at South River Road and Jefferson Boulevard draws crowds in the thousands.
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John Vinson has been commemorating the Sept. 11 terror attacks for more than a decade in West Sacramento. The memorial at South River Road and Jefferson Boulevard draws crowds in the thousands.

Fifteen years later, John Vinson vividly remembers the anger, pain and desire to do something – anything – after watching the World Trade Center towers fall on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001.

Vinson, a West Sacramento carpenter, grabbed the American flag he hung outside his home on national holidays and drove with it to a Sacramento overpass during rush hour.

“I just started waving the flag from my truck over the freeway,” he said.

To commemorate the anniversary, in 2004, Vinson placed 14 flags on a patch of grass near the intersection of South River Road and Jefferson Boulevard in West Sacramento, he said.

He’s built the memorial every year since, and it’s grown into a massive display of flags and tributes to the attacks’ victims. Replicas of the twin towers loom large in the center of the display.

The memorial, which is open 24 hours through Sunday, features more than 500 large American flags and 2,977 small flags, one for each victim of the attacks in New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

Smaller monuments include specific memorials for the victims of the attack on the Pentagon, United Airlines Flight 93 and the firefighters who died trying to rescue survivors. Domestic terror attacks that occurred after 2001 also are remembered.

New this year are remembrances for the Orlando nightclub shooting and the San Bernardino mass shooting.

Vinson, who has since moved to Acampo, said he keeps coming back because he worries that Americans might lose sight of what was lost – and what’s at stake.

“We have people who walk into this field, and even though we have signs that say ‘Never Forget’ and signs that say ‘9/11/01’ they’ll come up to the table and ask what this is all about,” Vinson said. “As long as I’m around, I’m not going to let people forget.”

Pictures allow us to remember what we feel, and until you review the pictures from that horrific day and the weeks following, it's easy to forget what that day felt like. This is a reminder.

Ryan Sabalow: 916-321-1264, @ryansabalow

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