At 11 a.m. Sunday, two processions will converge on the Civic Center plaza on Castro Street, where city officials, police, firefighters and local service clubs will honor the 3,000 people who died the day the twin towers fell, and the 343 firefighters and 60 police officers who responded to the disaster and lost their lives. It was the largest single loss of firefighters in United States history.
At 10 a.m. police will observe a national moment of silence on their radios, following a Congressional resolution that "calls upon all of the people and institutions of the United States to observe a moment of remembrance on September 11, 2011" at 10 a.m. Pacific Time.
"We didn't even know what terrorist attacks were in this country before 9-11," said Mayor Jac Siegel. "Even now there is a lot of nervousness 10 years after. We are always on guard, we have to be."
Local reaction to the attacks was much the same as the rest of the country — shock and heightened alertness.
"No one knew this was kind of a one-time event," said Vice Mayor Mike Kasperzak, who added that he would never forget turning on the TV to see only one of the twin towers standing. "I thought, are they going to blow up a train tomorrow? Are they going to blow up more buildings? I think we forget how uncertain everybody was about what was next."
Kasperzak was on the City Council at the time, and he remembers then-Mayor Mario Ambra cancelling the City Council meeting that was set for that evening.
"I remember thinking 'we shouldn't cancel the council meeting, we should not let the terrorists disrupt our lives,'" Kasperzak said. "Which was kind of naive because the amount of disruption they caused the world is immeasurable."
In late 2003 the City Council examined the new Patriot Act, a set of consequential security policies that were enacted in reaction to the attacks. Around 200 cities had called for the repeal of the law, opposing provisions that would employ police officers in homeland security duties. Mountain View council members spent two months studying the law and ended up taking a unique stand against only six parts of the law that council members deemed unacceptable, including various changes to search and seizure laws that basically allow the federal government, with the aid of local police, to monitor what individuals read; to search homes without probable cause; to access people's bank accounts without their knowledge; to tap people's phones or get search warrants without probable cause of criminal activity; and to easily expel legal non-citizens with little court review.
The 9/11 attacks spurred the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, in which 6,026 American soldiers have died as of Wednesday, along with countless civilians. The wars have cost the country a reported $5 trillion.
Mayor Siegel remembers that many Americans blamed Muslims and the Middle East in general for the attacks.
"There was a complete misunderstanding of what was going on," Siegel said. "People just felt the Middle East that had attacked us, but that was really not true. It was not the Middle East that attacked us, but certain people."
Siegel also remembers the local aftermath, with cars being searched before entering airports, many people not being let through the Moffett Field security gate and the concern that the Blue Cube at the former Onizuka Air Force base in Sunnyvale could be considered a high profile target for terrorists.
Ten years later, people feel a bit less tense about it all. But there is some worry every year that there will be another Sept. 11 attack.
"We think, well, if somebody is going to do something that's when they will try to do it," Siegel said. "I'll be happy when it's Sept. 12 just so we don't even have to think about it again for a while."