EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - East Brunswick community members gathered tonight to commemorate the 19th Anniversary of the September 11, 201 attacks that so impacted our nation and our local communities here in New Jersey.  Mayor Brad Cohen, Assemblywoman Nancy J. Pinkin, Commissioner/Freeholder Kenneth Armwood, Board of Education members Laurie Lachs and Heather Guas and Council members Michael Spadafino, Sharon Sullivan, and Kevin McEvoy joined in a "solemn vigil" in remembrance of those lost on one of America's darkest days and the community heroes who came to their aid. Parents and children were also present, as were representatives for East Brunswick's groups of first responders.  All wearing masks, all social distancing, yet all united in a common feeling of combined loss and hope.

Due to COVID-19 concerns, the ceremony was briefer than it had been in the past, yet this year brought something new.  This year, no East Brunswick students had been born at the time of the attacks on New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania.  "The 9/11 people are different from those other East Brunswick residents honored in township parks. "They did not expect to be heroes, " Cohen said. Nonetheless, Mayor Cohen initiated an essay contest in which students were asked to send a message to those lost on September 11, 2001 about the impact of their deaths on the current world in which we live.

Ashley Lachs, Julia Malling, Satvika Mandala, and Brianna Perez of East Brunswick High School spoke about the importance of remembering the events of 9/11/01.

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Here is the essay written and presented by Satvika Mandala of East Brunswick High School: 

On September 11, 2001, my father walked down late to NYC to head to his job. He worked in the Twin Towers.

When arriving, he was met with one of the most scarring, painful experiences of his life even to this day. While he had been able to escape and only sustained minor injuries, not everyone else was as fortunate.

On this day 19 years ago, the United States of America lost nearly 3,000 beautiful lives to what would be known as one of the worst days in our nation’s history. On this day, we grieve. On this day, we remember. But most importantly, on this day, we hope.

Being the first complete group of high school students to have been born after this horrific event, there is much to learn and listen to from this sad chapter in our history. Despite our struggles and differences, we can understand that no matter what, we are all united by a powerful bond of humanity.

We can learn the importance of being there for people when they need it the most. We learn the importance of listening to others not just when pandemonium hits, but when the rest of the world is silent. We learn the importance of being united, even when we feel anything but. Let us not forget that even in the darkest moments, Americans have shone brighter than we could've ever anticipated.

When we remember the lives lost to this tragedy, let us not forget the immeasurable bravery our firefighters showed when they ran into the burning towers, rescuing countless people without the slightest hesitation.

When we remember the lives lost to this tragedy, let us not forget the citizens who diverted plane attacks in effort to prevent more lives and buildings from being destroyed.

When we remember the lives lost to this tragedy, let us not forget the unceasing strength and solidarity our people have displayed, coming together as one.

When it felt like all hope was lost, we became each other’s hope. When we felt that all our strength was gone, we became each other’s strength. And when we felt more lost than ever, we became each other’s place of unity.

As Rudy Giullani once said, “The attacks of September 11th were intended to break our spirit. Instead, we have emerged stronger and more unified. We feel renewed devotion to the principles of political, economic, and religious freedom, the rule of law and respect for human life. We are more determined than ever to live our lives in freedom”.

To this generation of youth and onwards, I tell you all that while this day was filled with grief and sorrow, it was also filled with sacrifice, courage, and resilience.

America, as always, has persevered, because on this day, we learn a renewed definition of America. A country that when in its darkest moments, can rely on its citizens to unite and empower one another.

America, a nation with unwavering strength and even stronger people.