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First responders and city officials in Manhattan Beach gathered at the city’s 9/11 Memorial on Tuesday to honor those who lost their lives related to the terrorist attack on the country 17 years ago.

Mayor Steve Napolitano said it was a day to remember those police officers, firefighters and paramedics who responded that day in 2001, including a group from Manhattan Beach who traveled to New York City after the attack to help with the cleanup.

“Remember where you were,” Napolitano said before a crowd of about 50 people Tuesday morning. “Remember those who have suffered since, those first responders who continue to suffer from cancers and things that have happened since 9/11 working on the clean up there. This is a day for us to join together as Americans.”

Since re-opening the 9/11 Victim’s Compensation Fund to first responders and individuals who later experienced health problems related to the attacks, more than 37,000 people have applied for compensation, as of July 31.

Manahttan Beach Mayor Steve Napolitano speaks at the city’s Sept. 11 remembrance. (Photo by Jacquelyne May) The city’s 9/11 Memorial on 15th Street and Valley Drive near City Hall consists of two steel beams from the towers, mounted upright with the phrase “We will never forget” engraved in cement. The memorial was constructed in 2007.

At the time the memorial was being considered, some people in town thought the beams ugly, Captain Tim Hageman recalled.

“The truth is what happened on 9/11 was in fact ugly,” Hageman said. “These two beams represent the American spirit and the strength of the American people.”

While the events of that day were horrible, Hageman said it also brought out the best in human nature.

“Even though we saw what evil can do, we also witnessed something much greater,” Hageman said. “We saw the awesome response of the human spirit and how people came together to serve mankind.”

State Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi (D-South Bay) recalled the national unity felt in the days and weeks following the attacks on September 11.

“We need to remember that 9/11 was the day America changed forever,” Muratsuchi said. “We need to make sure we’re educating our children and grandchildren not only about what happened on 9/11 but what happened afterward when we as Americans put aside our politics and our differences and came together.”