The memorial outside an Orange County firefighter's house started with a hand-painted sign that he made four days after the World Trade Center towers collapsed on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001.
Eighteen years after nearly 3,000 people were killed in the attacks, Scott Townley's tribute to those killed has also become an opportunity to learn for a group of children born years later.
For the first time in his 18 years of presenting the annual memorial around his Fullerton home, a group of school children visited Townley's touching display on a field trip. He will guide students from Orangethorpe Elementary School on a tour of the memorial, which features flags, crosses and a replica of the World Trade Center towers.
"We get a lot of home-schooled kids who learn about it, but as far as actual schools this is the first time we've had this interest," Townley said, adding he expects about 65 students to attend.
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On a day of emotional observances, the display is a relatively small but powerful reminder of those who died.
The crosses and U.S. flags cover Scott Townley's front and side yards in Fullerton, a solemn illustration of the lives lost in the attacks at the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon in Virginia and when a hijacked plane crashed in a Pennsylvania field. Each represents a person killed on Sept. 11, 2001 or after the terrorist attacks due to related illnesses. They are personalized with a name and the location where the person died.
"I wasn't even born," said 11-year-old Tate Garcia. "I was born in 2008, but right now in school we're learning about it."
This year, Townley added about 200 more names of rescue workers and first responders who died from illnesses related to the dust and toxins released in the aftermath of the attacks.
Also represented are the troops who have died in combat that followed the 9/11 attacks, Townley said.
There are photos of the victims inside an octagon-shaped tent outside Townley's house. It's walls are covered with faces and names of the fallen.
Four-foot high replicas of the Twin Towers, which collapsed after they were struck by airliners on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, rise prominently from inside a circle of flags in Townley's front yard. They were added this year.
"We're getting into a generation of children, a lot of them didn't know what the Twin Towers look like," Townley said.
The towers are illuminated by blue lights at night, a nod to the blue lights that were put in place of the fallen towers in New York City.
The hand-painted sign that Townley made four days after the towers fell also remains part of his display.