BAYONNE, NJ - Two hours before hundreds of people arrived at the Bayonne ceremony honoring those who perished on Sept. 11, 2001, Jean Perrucci came, carrying flowers to place before a mounted piece of rusted metal that had been part of the fallen World Trade Center towers.
This done in tribute to her husband, Frank, who served as chairman of the September 11th Bayonne Remembers Committee, until his death in December 2017.
He was largely responsible for Bayonne’s acquiring Zurab Tsereteli’s “To Struggle Against World Terrorism,” a 100-foot monument, a gift from Russia, Jersey City had refused to accept, but which towers over New York Harbor directly across from the site of the attack.
Jean, a small woman, moved through this landscape of monuments, the hundreds of folding chairs soon to be filled with people, and the temporary stage where clergy from nearly every domination would sit, humble, dedicated, determined to carry on her husband’s legacy.
“I came early to make sure everything is right,” she said, later taking up duty at the gate to the park where she handed out programs and glow sticks for the candle-light ceremony that would conclude the event.
Sadly, Bayonne residents died not only in the attacks on the Twin Towers – that spot visible even in the night sky from where the monument stands – but also in the crashed plane in Pennsylvania. Bayonne lost 12 residents during the 2001 attack, two of whom were on the plane forced down into the woods of Pennsylvania. A Bayonne resident was also victim to the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993.
Bayonne has held a ceremony honoring the victims every year since the attack, originally holding these events in Dennis Collins Park where a number of individual tributes were placed by families of the victims.
From the start Frank Perrucci led the campaign to find an appropriate way to commemorate the heroic and tragic deaths those Bayonne residents. Although someone with deep roots in the Bayonne civic community, it was the installation of the monument that allowed him to stand on this spot with a host of dignitaries, governors, U.S. Senators, even Russian President Vladimir Putin and former U.S. President Bill Clinton. Putin came to Bayonne in 2005 for the groundbreaking on the monument. Clinton came to Bayonne a year later when the monument was unveiled.
In this year’s ceremony, Rev. Joseph Barbone of St. James the Apostle Church, called for a moment of silence to honor Frank’s efforts, noting that although Perrucci was a member of a number of community organizations, this was one of his great accomplishments.
“He cared about his city and its people, and he is an inspiration for us all,” Rev. Barbone said.
From the moment the smoke cleared after the Sept. 11 attack, Bayonne residents vowed to keep the memory of those victims alive. In the early years, the memory involved the horror of the attack and where each witness was when it happened. Anger filled the hearts of many who did not understand how innocent people would become victims in a global conflict. Now, 18 years later, many of those who gathered talked about healing remembrance rather than rage.
“This is a day of remembrance,” Rev. Barbone said. “The names of all the victims of 9/11 on the base of the monument. The victims from the city are on the pillars here. We will never forget them.”
Mayor Jimmy Davis looked out at the standing room crowd of hundreds and reaffirmed Bayonne’s commitment to keep the memory of the victims alive.
“When this first happened, we said we would never forget the victims of this cowardly act,” he said. “On that day, everyone was an American, and it is up to use to keep their memory alive.”
Waheed Akbar from the Bayonne Mosque and Community Center, among the dozen religious leaders at the event, said the attack should not define Americans but become a means to make the world better.
“We need to resolve this as a community to rebound from this,” he said. “We need to refuse to give into bigotry and people who have false beliefs. We need love, not hate, promote caring over selfishness, tolerance not xenophobia.”
Rev. Dorothy Patterson of Wallace Temple A.M.E. Zion Church said that evil acts of this kind are designed to tear America apartment.
“We are Bayonne strong; we are America strong,” she added.
Instead of building bridges based on fear, hate and prejudice, people need to build bridges of inclusiveness, Patterson offered.
Rev. Alfie Pangilinan of St. Henry’s Roman Catholic Church echoed this.
“Our God is one of love, not hatred, forgiveness not revenge, peace, not war,” he said.
The ceremony included a moving performance of bagpipes by Police Det. William Peterson and a procession included the color guards from the Bayonne Police Department, Bayonne Fire Department, and veterans’ groups.
These led a solemn march into the park accompanied by members of the Bayonne Memorial Parade Committee, selected members of the Bayonne High School March Band, and the Bayonne High School a cappella group, The Bee’s Knees, followed by prayer and reflection by Bayonne church leaders.
The Bayonne ceremony drew people from near and far, including members of the motorcycle club, the Blue Knights out of Brooklyn and Staten Island, made up of police officers – many of whom had served on 9/11.
“They’ve taken part in this for years,” said Port Authority Police Captain John Denescoplis. “This is an annual tradition.”
Although the victims’ names are literally etched in stone so that the hundreds of people at the ceremony could remember them, they are people defined by things other than which tower they died in or even the plane they forced down:
Macko, who died at 57 in the 1993 attack, was employed by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey as an assistant chief mechanical supervisor for the World Trade Center. He loved to build, fish and cook.
Alysia Basmajian, 23, worked as an accountant, for Cantor Fitzgerald, moved to Bayonne in May 2000. She met, fell in love and married her husband Anthony while at the College of William and Mary.
Ana M. Centeno, 38, was an accountant with Marsh & McLennan Cos. Inc. went to the local gym or jogged the track in Stephen Gregg County Park.
John A. Cooper, 40, grew up in Brooklyn where he excelled in sports and was an account manager for SunGard Trading Systems in Jersey City. He was visiting someone in the World Trade at the time of the attack.
Colleen Ann Deloughery, 41, worked as a reinsurance specialist for Aon Corp. Born in Jersey City, she lived most of her life in Bayonne where she and her future husband first met as teenagers.
Ramzi A. Doany, 35, worked as a forensic accountant for March for Marsh & McLennan. Doany was born to Palestinian parents in Amman, Jordan, and lived for many years in Milwaukee where he attended the University of Wisconsin. He reportedly loved working in New York City, reading Charles Dickens novels. Just prior to the Sept. 11 attack, he had purchased a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.
John Roger Fisher, 46, worked a security consultant to the Port Authority of New York. He helped operate the security system installed after the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center. When the jetliner struck the North Tower on Sept. 11, he rushed back to New York from a meeting in New Jersey to check on security and help with evacuations.
Orasri Liangthanasarn, 26, worked as a banquet coordinator for Windows on the World restaurant, located on the 107th floor of the World Trade Center, a job she started the month before the attack, after having graduated New York University's master's program in food and nutrition management.
Gavin McMahon, 35, was an insurance executive for Aon Corp. A world traveler who originated in England, he moved to the New York area in 1996. He and his girlfriend moved to Bayonne a few years later where he was still renovating a house at the time of the attack.
Steven P. Morello, 52, worked as a facilities manager, Marsh & McLennan where he worked for seven year. Less than two weeks prior to the attack, he and his wife Eileen had celebrated their 33rd wedding anniversary.
Kenneth Joseph Tarantino, 39, worked as a currency trader at Cantor Fitzgerald. He also worked at as a substitute teacher while going to college and met his wife while attending college. He eventually got his bachelor's degree in marketing. He and his family had just moved to a bigger house in Bayonne the February prior to the attack.
Patricia Cushing, 69, a retired service representative for New Jersey Bell was traveling to San Francisco on vacation with sister-in-law Jane Folger, a retired bank officer, 73, when their plane was hijacked. This was her first flight on a commercial airplane, United Flight 93, which passengers forced down in Pennsylvania to avoid having the hijackers use it as a weapon. Cushing loved music and became a season ticket holder at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City after her husband died in 1988. Folger loved New York City and could not get enough of the stores, theater, Greenwich Village or the World Trade Center complex where she loved to shop.
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