PARSIPPANY, NJ - This past weekend was a time to reflect on what it means to be an American, and honor victims of a great tragedy. And just two days after an infamous date, Morris County officials and resident came together to do just that.

Nineteen years ago, three hijacked airplanes crashed into the World Trade Center and Pentagon, taking the lives of about 3,000 people. A fourth hijacked plane, United Airlines Flight 93, had also taken over by terrorists, but crashed into an open field in Pennsylvania after passengers and crew attempted to retake the flight, thus preventing it from reaching its target at the Capitol Building. No one on board survived the crash.

Memorials dedicated to victims of 9/11 can be seen across the nation. And recently, on September 13th, over 100 people, servicemen, politicians, and local residents gathered for a remembrance ceremony at the Morris County September 11th Memorial, across from the Morris View Healthcare Center and adjacent to the Morris County Public Safety Academy. The ceremony was also live-streamed.

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Countless American flags were seen at the memorial, raised by citizens and servicemen from multiple districts. Policemen and firemen marched together to the structure to great applause.

“We’re so thankful that our flag still stands in the hope that we have in this nation becoming the greatest nation that the world has ever seen,” said Pastor Sidney Williams, of the Bethel A.M.E. Church of Morristown, in an opening prayer. “We have a hope for a more perfect union, and a hope that we will never forget the painful past of our nation as we cling to a more perfect union. In Jesus name I pray. Amen.”

The Morris County September 11th Memorial contains steel wreckage from the World Trade Center, remnants from the crash site of United 93, and soil from the Pentagon. The memorial itself bears the names of 64 victims who were residents of the Morris County region.

“It was a picture-perfect day with golden sunshine and clear blue skies, and by sunset, it would go down in history as one of nation's darkest days,” said Freeholder director Deborah Smith. “Terrorists took the lives of some 3,000 men and women, including 64 here in morris county, all husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, children, friends and neighbors. We come together each year on September 11th to mourn the loss of innocence life and to show our support for police, firefighters, EMS, rescue workers and many others who risked the lives to help people that day. This evening, 19 years later, we assembled again. We're doing it despite the threat of rain, despite the pandemic, because we believe we must be here. Yes, life has moved on, but we have not forgotten.”

The remembrance ceremony received a special guest: Hanover Township native Greg Manning, who is a veteran of the New York City Fire Department and a 9/11 responder, who acted as the event’s keynote speaker. During the occasion, Manning told his story on what happened during that fateful day.

“I remember getting to leave with a backpack over my shoulder, wishing the brothers a safe tour, but then the voiceover announced a second alarm that has been transmitted for Box 8087, the World Trade Center,” said Manning. “I remember thinking how usual it was because that area of Manhattan doesn't get that many fires, especially the World Trade Center. We then changed the channel from whatever sport casting we were watching to the news. We then saw the North Tower ablaze.”

Manning knew already that this was no easy fire to put out. And things went from bad to worse when a second airplane crashed into the South Tower. It was clear that this tragedy was no random accident. As they got on a bus with all the equipment they could carry, Manning and his comrades would soon watch in horror as the two towers collapsed.

“We headed out soon after the second collapse. As we got onto the Bruckner Expressway, we could see a huge column of smoke rising from the site of the World Trade Center. Emotions were running extremely high on the bus. I remember one of the guys couldn't get in touch with his wife who worked at the Trade Center. As we continue our drive downtown, I remember looking out and seeing the police precinct was completely surrounded by sanitation trucks as a form of protection of what might come next. I guess it really started to sink in right there that we were under attack.”

Manning would describe the months of work, clearing and searching through rubble, trying to find any remains of survivors or victims, including 343 fellow firefighters. Many times, the NYC firefighter nearly broke down as he spoke at podium, but always reminded the gathered crowd what was it that kept him, his fellow servicemen, and the nation today moving forward.

“As we move forward, it's important to remember the feeling of unity we had as a country,” said Manning. “People from all over bonded in the rescue and recovery operations at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and Shanksville, Pennsylvania.”

Manning is a 33-year veteran of emergency services and a 20-year member of the New York City Fire Department. He had only been with N.Y.C. Fire Department for less than two years when the fateful day occurred. Manning served in the Engine 69/Ladder28/Battalion 16. Today, he continues to serve in FDNY’s Squad 41 in the South Bronx and as a member of FDNY’s Special Operations Unit.

The names on the Morris County September 11th Memorial were read out loud by Freeholders Douglas R. Cabana and Thomas J. Mastrangelo, as over 100 attendees light up candles and bowed their heads. Music was provided by the Morris County Police Pipes & Drums of Morris County, along with a 21-gun salute by the Morris County Sheriff’s Office.

The list of names engraved on the Morris County September 11th Memorial include Donald Leroy Adams, Chatham, Margaret L. Benson, Rockaway Township, John Paul Bocchi, Harding, Martin Boryczewski, Parsippany, Dennis Buckley, Chatham, Cecile M. Caguicla, Boonton Township, Liam Callahan, Rockaway Township, David G. Carlone, Randolph, James Leslie Crawford, Jr., Madison, Joseph DeLuca, Roxbury, Captain Robert Edward Dolan, Florham Park, Antoinette Duger, Parsippany, Gregg J. Froehner, Chester Township, Alayne F. Gentul, Mountain Lakes, Debra Lynn Fischer Gibbon, Washington, Paul Stuart Gilbey, Chatham Township, Gayle R. Greene, Montville, Eileen Marsha Greenstein, Morris Plains, Gary Robert Haag, Chatham Township, Timothy Robert Hughes, Madison, Anthony P. Infante, Jr., Chatham, Jason Kyle Jacobs, Mendham Township, Joon Koo Kang, Riverdale, Lucille King, Denville, Angela R. Kyte, Boonton Township, Robin Blair Larkey, Chatham Township, Thomas V. Linehan, Jr., Montville, Sean Patrick Lynch, Morris Township, Simon Maddison, Florham Park, Alfred Russell Maler, Morris Township, Christian Hartwell Maltby, Chatham, Hilda Marcin, Mount Olive, William J. Martin, Jr., Denville, Philip W. Mastrandrea, Jr., Chatham Township, William A. Mathesen, Morris Township, Robert D. Mattson, Rockaway Township, Patrick J. McGuire, Madison, Martin Paul Michelstein, Morristown, Seth Allan Morris, Kinnelon, Peter C. Moutos, Chatham, Alexander Napier, Jr., Morris Township, Michael O'Brien, Hanover, Michael John Pescherine, Parsippany, Thomas H. Polhemus, Parsippany, David Alan James Rathkey, Mt. Lakes, Richard C. Rescorla, Morristown, Antonio Augusto Tome Rocha, East Hanover, James Romito, Montville, Steven Harris Russin, Randolph, Maria Theresa Santillan, Parsippany, Matthew Carmen Sellitto, Harding Township, Karen Lynn Seymour-Dietrich, Long Hill Township, Barbara A. Shaw, Morris Township, Francis Joseph Skidmore, Jr., Randolph, Michael C. Sorresse, Parsippany, Thomas S. Strada, Chatham Township, Edward W. Straub, Morris Township, Kenneth J. Swenson, Chatham Township, Dennis Gerard Taormina, Montville

William R. Tieste, Harding, Peter Guyder Wallace, Lincoln Park, Matthew David Yarnell, Kinnelon, Mark Zangrilli, Pequannock, and Kenneth Albert Zelman, Roxbury.

“America must never forget,” said Freeholder Smith. “We will never forget!”