Giant American flag marking 9/11 begins 50-state tour in San Diego - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Giant American flag marking 9/11 begins 50-state tour in San Diego

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A giant American flag that will be taken to all 50 states before ending its journey in New York City next year for the 10th anniversary of 9/11 was displayed outside a downtown San Diego fire station during a memorial ceremony Friday to remember those who lost their lives during the terrorist attacks.

The flag, which is 58 feet long and 30 feet wide, was hung from the ladder of a fire engine in front of the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department's Station 1 before it begins its journey.

"The more times this flag is seen, the more times people will remember and keep the memories alive of the people who were lost. And, let the families know their loved ones have not been forgotten," said Mitch Mendler, a San Diego firefighter who organized the flag campaign, called "Never Forget -- Keeping the Memories Alive."

The 60-pound flag, which was donated by the Escondido Auto Park Association, will be displayed in Santa Monica Saturday, before traveling next around Arizona, according to Mendler.

From there, Mendler said he hopes to have the flag flown from ladder trucks in all 50 states before it returns to San Diego and is transported to New York City, Washington, D.C., and Shanksville, Pa., to be used in ceremonies commemorating the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorism attacks.

FedEx has agreed to help ship the flag around the country for free, Mendler said.

The massive flag dominated the backdrop of the memorial service at the fire station, where officials gathered to pay tribute to the more than 2,900 people who lost their lives on 9/11.

Mayor Jerry Sanders said it was hard to believe it had been nine years since that "awful morning that none of us will ever forget."

He honored the San Diego military personnel who were called to fight in the two subsequent wars and thanked firefighters and police for protecting residents.

"There is a saying that you never truly understand the importance of police and fire departments until you need their services," Sanders said.

"That motto remains as true today as it was nine years ago."

Councilman Kevin Faulconer said it was a "day to remember all of the people who lost their lives and the families who never had a chance to say goodbye to their loved ones."

He also praised police, firefighters and emergency service workers who rushed to the World Trade Center in New York City to respond to the terrorist attack, many of whom lost their lives.

"What they did can never be measured in words," Faulconer said. "All of us are forever indebted to them for their service to New York and right here at home in San Diego."

Assistant Fire Chief Jeff Carle recalled a scene of a flag that nine years ago was raised over the rubble at the World Trade Center as a symbol of "how quickly everyone's lives can change."

"That flag is also a sign of our nation's resilience and our resolve," he said. "And, to never forget, in addition to the firefighters and police officers who lost their lives, there were 3,000 people in total including civilians from all walks of life."

San Diego Police Department Chief William Lansdowne said the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks is a time to "look back and remember America's heroes, it's public safety."

"God bless those that have lost their lives," Lansdowne said.

On Sept. 11, 2001, hijackers crashed two airliners into the Twin Towers at the World Trade Center in New York City. A third plane slammed into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. A fourth was downed in a Pennsylvania field after passengers acted to thwart the terrorists' plans to crash it in the nation's capitol.

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