WEST ORANGE, NJ - In a solemn, yet deeply emotional ceremony that reminded Essex County residents that time has not diminished the depth of pain that Sept. 11, 2001 brought, the Eagle Rock Memorial stood as a place of healing and a testament to the lives that will never be forgotten.
Family, friends, officials and community members joined together to reflect upon the events of 9/11, and how they still provided moments of hope and faith. Steve Adubato introduced the speakers and reflections were given by Rev. Ron Christian of Christian Love Baptist Church and Rabbi Clifford Kulwin of Temple B'Nai Abraham.
Donald Robertson Sr., father of Donald Robertson Jr., an employee of Cantor Fitzgerald who perished in the World Trade Center, gave an emotional message noting that his family, 12 years later, still experienced that grief as they first did. The Robertson family was originally from South Orange and have been instrumental in county efforts to create a lasting memory of those that died. Also involved with other families in the construction of the Freedom Tower at the site of Ground Zero, Robertson said that of the 2,753 that died in the Twin Towers, 1,637 have been identified and 1,116 have not. Robertson's family still has no closure - his son's remains have never been identified.
Robertson also shared how the families would like to see Sept. 11 become a National Day of Remembrance, similar to Dec. 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor, when 2,400 Americans died in that attack.
At the Freedom Tower
, the remains of the unidentified dead will be interred behind the Wall. A private area for family will be made available there. The inscription on the Wall reads "No Day Shall Erase You From the Memory of Time" (Virgil). The tower, now called One World Trade Center, stands 1,776 feet tall and is the tallest building in New York City.
Touching comments and observations from Susan Rossinow, who lost her husband Norman, and Deborah Calimano, United Airlines Flight Attendant, followed. Sheriff Armando Fontoura, clearly emotional, spoke of the first responders who 'ran to where others ran from' and said to those that wondered if it wasn't time to get over 9/11: "No, never."
Comments of faith and encouragement followed from Freeholder Blonnie Watson, Senator Theresa Ruiz, and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver. Congressman Donald Payne, who said he had just met with President Obama, sighed heavily as he said 'we are dealing with serious issues in these days' and also promised as a committee member for the Department of Homeland Security, that he would advocate for making 9/11 A National Day of Remembrance.
Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno spoke of how her son was in the Air Force because of 9/11. "The most important thing in life is serving others" she noted as she spoke of the losses we all continue to mourn, and "some good must come from this - share your stories, tell your children, tell your grandchildren, and ensure the terrorists will not win."
Essex County Executive Joe DiVicenzo, who spearheaded construction of the Eagle Rock Memorial
, shared how he lost both parents 25 years ago and understood the feeling of loss and hopelessness that families of 9/11 felt. He also knew that Eagle Rock reservation, which offers a magnificent view of the New York City skyline, was was the scene of many residents who stood in disbelief and grief on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. DiVincenzo recognized the spiritual and emotional connection that the area had, and on Oct. 20, 2002, the Eagle Rock Memorial opened. Additional components have been added in the past few years.
Memorial wreaths were laid and attendees departed quietly. The memorial remained open and many came to see the names of their loved ones on the wall, where they sobbed and wept for what was lost, for what might have been, and for all those that shared that grief.