Verona Remembers 9/11 Victims

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Volunteers again laid out 2,977 flags in the center of Verona, one for each person who died in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Volunteers again laid out 2,977 flags in the center of Verona, one for each person who died in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

A large crowd gathered in the center of town this morning to mark the 14th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and to honor both those who died and those who came to their aid. Two Verona residents, William Erwin and Stephen Roach, died in the attacks on the World Trade Center, as did Howard Kestenbaum, a resident of Montclair who worshipped at Congregation Beth Ahm.

Mayor Kevin Ryan was working in lower Manhattan on September 11, 2001 and he shared these words of remembrances with the gathering:

“September 11th 2001 is a day that I will never forget. My wife Valerie and I traveled into the World Trade Center PATH station on that day as we had done for many years to get to our jobs in the Federal Building, which was about 10 blocks north of the WTC. I remember it being a beautiful sunny day, mild temperature and not a cloud in the sky.

We both had settled into our normal routine on the 39th floor of the building. My office faced the Hudson River and if I looked out the window I had a clear view of the twin towers and lower Manhattan.

When the first plan hit the north tower many of us were under the impression that a horrible accident had taken place. Back then an act of terrorism was not necessarily the first thing that came to mind.

We have all been taught about December 7th 1941 when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in what FDR described as “a day that will live in infamy” and brought the U.S. into WWII. We were involved in other conflicts after that in Korea and Vietnam unfortunately many American lives were lost but the homeland never came under attack.

Mayor Kevin Ryan was working in lower Manhattan on September 11, 2001 and witnessed the plane hitting the World Trade Center's south tower.
Mayor Kevin Ryan was working in lower Manhattan on September 11, 2001 and witnessed the plane hitting the World Trade Center’s south tower.
September 11th changed all that. After the first plane struck, the news reports were vague and I remember being like a kid with my nose pressed up against the window looking up at the gaping hole in the north tower. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed a second plane flying very low across the harbor and flying toward the second tower. I saw it hit the tower and I could actually feel the heat and shock wave.

After that there was no doubt we were under attack and in the middle of a second day that will live in infamy. We then started to learn of the attacks on the Pentagon and the hijacking of Flight 93 that crashed in Shankesville, Pennsylvania before it reached its final destination. The heroic action of the passengers and crew prevented an even greater loss of life.

A new type of war was declared on America resulting from a series of cowardly attacks on the civilians just trying to carry on with their daily lives. Two of our Verona residents, William Erwin and Stephen Roach, whose names are inscribed on our memorial, were part of this group. We can only hope that by doing this Verona has given their families and friends some degree of comfort. We can never compensate them for their loss. If the intention of the terrorists was to break the American spirit and resolve they soon discovered they were sadly mistaken. First responders immediately sprung into action. Police, firefighters, EMTs doctors nurses and regular citizens all rushed to the site to do what they could to save lives while putting their own lives in great jeopardy and many lost their lives as a result of their commitment to save others.

These individuals who have come to be recognized as “the first responders” along with the passengers and crew of flight 93 are the true heroes of September 11th. The poster on display here today is taken from a commemorative stamp that was issued by the post office on the first anniversary of the attack. We have a smaller version along with a picture of the original Twin Towers that originally hung in my office, now hanging in our home. It is our way of remembering the tragedy and heroism associated with that day.

I find it hard to believe that fourteen years have passed since that horrible event took place. Sadly, the war on terror that was declared after that day is still being fought and the consequences are still with us. Many of the young people here today cannot remember a time when you didn’t have to go through a metal detector to travel. When you could go to a ball park or concert without having to be searched. Nor can they remember a time when the American military was not engaged in a conflict in either Afghanistan, or Iraq.

What this tells me is that “freedom is never free” but I have the firm belief that we will ultimately prevail if we stick to our core beliefs in democracy, tolerance and respect for the rights and beliefs of others.
Many have sacrificed their lives in defense of these core values. These are values that need to be embraced by all peoples and governments.

We must continue the fight to defeat terrorism and the fear and hatred that feed it.

The brave sacrifices and love of their fellow human beings displayed by the “heroes of September 11th, and the memory of the innocents victims, who we honor today, are an inspiration to continue this fight and to prove their sacrifice and loss of life was not in vain. This is the reason we must choose always to remember and never to forget September 11th 2001.”

Students from Our Lady of the Lake and H.B. Whitehorne schools, most not born when the 9/11 attacks happened, attended today's ceremony.
Students from Our Lady of the Lake and H.B. Whitehorne schools, most not born when the 9/11 attacks happened, attended today’s ceremony.

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Virginia Citrano
Virginia Citranohttps://myveronanj.com
Virginia Citrano grew up in Verona. She moved away to write and edit for The Wall Street Journal’s European edition, Institutional Investor, Crain’s New York Business and Forbes.com. Since returning to Verona, she has volunteered for school, civic and religious groups, served nine years on the Verona Environmental Commission and is now part of Sustainable Verona. She co-founded MyVeronaNJ in 2009. You can reach Virginia at [email protected]

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