ATLANTIC HIGHLANDS, NJ - Tuesday morning 9/11, Congressman Chris Smith shared remarks with the gathered during the Monmouth County 9/11 Memorial Ceremony at Mount Mitchill Scenic Overlook in Atlantic Highlands. Exerpts:
"Everyone remembers where they were and what they were doing—I was in Washington chairing a Veteran’s Affairs Committee hearing—when a group of cowards hijacked 4 airliners in order to perpetrate the worst act of terrorism in American history.
Nearly 700 New Jerseyans—147 from Monmouth County alone—lost their lives that day.
No-one remembers the shock, horror and numbing sorrow more, however, than the families and close friends of the victims.
Because it was a surprise attack, there was no chance to fight back that day although when Todd Beamer and other passengers learned what happened to the Twin Towers, Todd famously said “let’s roll” and they attacked the terrorists on board the flight that crashed in a Pennsylvania field.
Who can forget the courageous first responders running up the stairs of the burning buildings—with total disregard for their own safety—saving some at the expense of their own lives.
On the morning of 9/11, I got a mere glimpse—I say again, a mere glimpse—into the sense of horror suffered by the victim’s families when I couldn’t reach my own brother Tom—an American Airlines 757 Captain who often piloted Flight 11 from Logan to L.A., the flight that crashed into the North Tower.
Evacuated from the Capitol and stuck in traffic within sight of the burning Pentagon, cell phones were all but gridlocked. About noon I got through. He and his flight attendant wife Sandy were safe but were in anguish because they knew the pilots and crew on board Flight 11.
For 17 years, the families and friends of those who died that day and since have had to endure their loss and a broken heart.
Both then—and now seventeen years later—words are inadequate to convey our empathy for those who died and for the victims’ families.
For many, their faith in God has helped them survive and overcome.
But now we know the carnage, the consequences, the ongoing loss of life and health attributable to 9/11 are even worse than anyone could have ever imagined.
As the Asbury Park Press reminded in an article:
“Seventeen years out from the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, nearly 10,000 first responders and others who were in the World Trade Center area have been diagnosed with cancer. More than 2,000 deaths have been attributed to 9/11 illnesses.
“It will get worse. By the end of 2018, many expect that more people will have died from their toxic exposure from 9/11 than were killed on that terrible Tuesday.”
Congress enacted the World Trade Center Health Program Fund (WTCHP) & Victims Compensation Fund to provide health services for responders at the three crash sites, and others in the vicinity of the WTC site for health conditions related to toxic exposures from the attacks.
Rigorous testing and early interventions offer some hope to those manifesting illness.
Today, we remember and honor all the victims of 9/11—past, present and future."