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June 14, 2021

County official says flag lowering ‘fell off the radar’ on 9/11

Many counties and cities throughout the nation organize community events to honor those lost in the terrorist attacks 11 years ago on Sept. 11. At the very least, citizens have come to expect their local government institutions to lower American flags to half-staff.  

On Sept. 11 of this year, however, San Benito County leadership neglected to lower flags outside government buildings. The county administrative officer said it merely “fell off the radar,” but a supervisor and local American Legion commander expressed disappointment over the apparent oversight – in a year without a communitywide ceremony here on 9/11.

As with other days of remembrance or mourning, President Obama issued a proclamation calling for flags to be lowered.

San Benito County typically has lowered flags to half-staff on Sept. 11, also called Patriot Day, and other days where it is tradition.

“It wasn’t done purposely,” CAO Rich Inman said. “It fell off the radar.”

Still, American Legion Post 69 Commander Joe Love said it is an example of how government institutions are “getting too lax” with such days of remembrance.

“It’s disappointing,” Love said. “Maybe they forgot. But still, they have checks and balances that would show they need to go down and set all the flags at half-mast.”

He went on: “A lot of veterans died. A lot of civilians died over 9/11.”

The county was the only major local government institution to neglect the flag practice this year. Hollister City Clerk Geri Johnson said she keeps it on her calendar. This year, she had been in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 11 and that morning reminded others at the city to lower the flags.

 The school districts always follow such presidential proclamations. Hollister School District ordered lowered flags after receiving a forwarded copy of the presidential proclamation from the San Benito County Office of Education – which sends the notices to the local districts when it receives them.

“I get them and they go,” said county Superintendent Mike Sanchez.

San Benito High School District actually goes a step further and passes a resolution each year – requiring flags to fly at half-staff – for Patriot Day.

County Supervisor Anthony Botelho, who asked the chairman for a moment of silence during the board meeting on Sept. 11, said he would “absolutely” support an official resolution – similar to the high school measure – at the county level.

“I know I’d vote for it,” he said.

Although he doesn’t believe it was intentional, Botelho said the county flags should have flown at half-staff.

“The fact of the matter is – we’re still at war and we’re at war because of Sept. 11,” Botelho said.

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