Patriot Day at the park: Prayer Angels hold 9/11 remembrance event

Grace S. colors in a thank you card for members of the armed services at a Patriot Day event held in Stevenson Ranch. September 11, 2019. Bobby Block / The Signal.
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Although they were over a decade away from being born when the Twin Towers fell, children gathered with their families Wednesday and wrote cards to first responders and active-duty members of the military in honor of the 18th anniversary of 9/11.

Hosted in Dr. Richard Rioux Park annually, the Prayer Angels for the Military “Patriot Day” event was a free event for kids that commemorates what happened 18 years ago.

SSGs Scott Lawson and Eric Mota salute during the Pledge of Allegiance at the Prayer Angels for the Military’s Patriot Day commemoration in Richard H. Rioux memorial park in Stevenson Ranch. September 11, 2019. Bobby Block / The Signal.

“It’s a day to always remember and I want my kids to know that,” said Kay Hart, who brought her 1-, 2- and 4-year-olds to the event. “I don’t want them to forget the history of this country.”

During the event, kids participated in a chalk-drawing contest, card-making for firefighters, law enforcement and military, as well as assembling care packages for Santa Clarita troops overseas. Kids also heard from U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Scott Lawson and Sgt. Eric Mota about what their letters and care packages mean to them.

“We’ve been doing this for about 15 years,” said Suzon Gerstel. “There’s a lot of focus on the kids, but we also like them to speak to firsthand soldiers, have the (soldiers) tell them how important it is and then I let them do a couple boxes so they can see that this is something (troops) are getting on the other end.”

Mariann Moore looks at a poster memorializing local first responders who lost their lives in the line of duty while attending a Patriot Day Commemoration event held at Richard Rioux Park in Stevenson Ranch. September 11, 2019. Bobby Block / The Signal.

Gerstel said that when her son was on deployment overseas, on “real bad days,” he and his comrades in arms would carry their letters from Prayer Angels in their pockets as a comfort item. “It keeps them going,” she said.

In addition to the patriotic arts and crafts, the families and volunteers in attendance also heard a song from local artist and associate pastor John Stratton entitled “The Unsung Hero.”

“I was asked to come out and sing a song that was meant to honor the armed forces, and everyone who responded and was present on 9/11 to take care of our country,” said Stratton. “I wanted to come out and demonstrate that we operate better when we’re a family, and we’re thankful for those who put their lives on the line.”

American flags adorned the stands at Richard Rioux park in Stevenson Ranch, Wednesday, as residents commemorated the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks with a show of patriotism and prayer. September 11, 2019. Bobby Block / The Signal.

Those in attendance had also brought donations including snacks and patriotic memorabilia that could be placed in the care packages.

The Prayer Angels accept donations year-round for care packages for troops, and those looking to contribute or to volunteer to assemble care packages can contact the organization at 661-799-8865 or email them at [email protected].

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