The mother of three shared her recollections of that day 20 years later in the Alameda County Fairgrounds Amphitheater during a remembrance organized by county Supervisor David Haubert last Saturday.
Her 29-year-old sister, Amy King, was a flight attendant along with her boyfriend on United Flight 175 bound for Los Angeles from Boston. Hijacked by terrorists, the 767 struck the south tower of the World Trade Center. Initially, Deborah said she felt like her sister would be OK after her husband called her to tell her to turn on the news. She was in the morning routine of getting her three children, aged 10, 8, and 4, ready for the day in their Chicago-area home.
Deborah dropped them off and returned home to answer a phone call from her father who said devastating words, “United called.” Telling her children that Aunt Amy would not be coming to see them again was the hardest part of a very difficult day. “Aunt Amy was the epitome of a fun, young aunt who came to Chicago a few times a month just to play. “
She said her favorite times with Amy were when they ran together—they did so for the last time in their upstate New York home on July 4, 2001. Her family and others continue to honor Amy with an annual fundraising run the Saturday after Thanksgiving and a golf tournament. The money supports activities for children.
“I am here today to commemorate that horrible, tragic day while honoring those who were lost… I humbly ask you that you all never forget to live in gratitude and find joy… We need to take the time to understand each other,” Deborah concluded.
She was followed by Army veteran Jim McGuirk who had enlisted in the Army a few days before 9/11. He grew up in Pleasanton, attended church in Dublin and played youth sports, threw a newspaper route and graduated from Foothill High. He’d visited the recruiting office during his junior year and identified that he was looking for an education, camaraderie and to travel the world in the Army.
9/11 changed all of that and his boots hit the sands of Iraq in 2003. He was deployed again in 2005 and served for five years before returning to the valley. He attended Las Positas College and then transferred to Cal to complete his undergraduate degree.
His core message was one of gratitude to the community where he was raised. “This community has shaped me throughout my life and continues to do so.
“Your moral and ethical foundations are set in your childhood…these are empathy, compassion, love for humanity and so on,” he said.
Earlier in the program, Alameda County Sheriff Greg Ahern spoke about how the mission of law enforcement was transformed forever on that day.
“We took on a new mission protecting our nation from violent terrorists and their intent to do mass destruction to our areas. I am here today to renew that promise that we will never forget 9/11 and continue to train and invest in our people. We will never waver in our commitment to our communities,” he said.