Local 9/11 Victim Honored by U.S. Central Command

Fresno, CA It was a fitting tribute to a Lemoore native dedicated to protecting our country. /*Lt. Commander Vince Tolbert*/ was among the 184 people who died when American Airlines Flight 77 slammed into the Pentagon on 9/11. 8 years later, Shari Tolbert says the pain persists. "It doesn't get easier and sometimes it sneaks up on you." It is a feeling shared by Vince's mother Nancy. "Well I won't say difficult but it does lift the scab."

The Tolberts recently returned from MacDill Air Force base in Tampa. General David Petraeus, Commander of US Central Command, was there to dedicate the Otis Vincent Tolbert Joint Intelligence Center. Petraeus said, "I met with him a number of times over the years and in every case, he was always asking what else could be done to support our troopers and to support their families."

Shari and her children beamed with pride - 17-year old Amanda, 15-year old Brittany, born with cerebral palsy, and nine-year old Anthony. Shari Tolbert said, "I honestly think the trip will be a turning point for the kids in their lives and their aspirations because it just opened their eyes to what their dad did." Vince's dad Butch and brothers Chris and Dan were also there. Nancy Tolbert recalled of the dedication, "A lot of pride. It was just beautiful."

Those on base refer to the building as "the Vince," in honor of the former Fresno State standout. Shari Tolbert said, "I always encouraged his peers while we were there, the biggest gift you could give to my children, especially Anthony, who didn't know his dad that well. He was 18-months old when he died. Go tell him a story about his dad."

Because the Tolberts just returned from Tampa they stayed in the valley instead of returning to the Pentagon 9/11 memorial. Last year's dedication drew 20-thousand people. Shari recalled, "We shook hands with President Bush and he looked at me and said, wow, it seems like a lifetime and I looked at Anthony and said, sir, for him it has been."

9/11 is a day of mourning for all of America. But it's also a day the Tolberts look to each other to find strength. Nancy Tolbert explained, "We're not the first to have lost a child but it's so public that you can't smooth it over and you can't go about your business because everybody knows."

17-year old Amanda Tolbert is determined to finish dad's work. She plans to study Arabic at Georgetown, become an intelligence analyst and someday work in the building bearing her father's name.

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