PARAMUS, NJ – In a moving 911 ceremony, several officials from Bergen New Bridge Medical Center talked about personal remembrances of their Sept. 11, 2001 experiences, all the while reminding the audience not to forget.
With the sun beaming down and bagpipe performers reminding the audience of the solemn nature of the event, approximately 75 people were focused on the stories of those who remembered the day the United States was attacked by 19 Islamic extremists who drove planes filled with passengers into the World Trade Towers in New York City, the Pentagon in Washington, DC, and Stonycreek Township near Shanksville, PA. Nearly 3,000 people died combined from the three sites.
The Hackensack University Medical Center Military Honor Guard opened the remembrance service with a display of the Flag, and the Bergen County Firefighter Pipe Band played “Amazing Grace,” followed by the playing of a recording of the National Anthem.
“We are keeping alive the promise to ‘never forget’,” said Joel Reed, chairman of the 911 Memorial Committee for Bergen New Bridge Medical Center. “They wanted to defeat us, but we defied them.”
Deborah Visconi, Bergen New Bridge Medical Center President and Chief Executive Officer, was powerful in her remarks, eliciting a clear memory and depiction of what many may have been feeling that day.
While she awoke yesterday morning thinking about preparing her remarks for the event, she chided herself for “daring” to prepare.
“How dare I prepare when at 8:46 a.m., the community, the rescuers, the families, they were not prepared for the horrors that were to come,” she said. “We were aghast, shocked.”
Visconi recounted how, working as corporate director for the Heart Institute at Beth Israel Medical Center at the time, she was prepared with her co-workers to serve those who were injured and to help first responders who needed help.
“But they never came,” she said.
Along with her co-workers, she ran to the Alinsky Pavilion. “That’s when we saw the second plane hit.”
She then ran to Union Square where she saw people walking, “covered in blood, covered in ash.”
Sept. 11 is her son’s birthday. He was nine on Sept. 11 in 2001.
“I woke up that morning thinking about what type of birthday cake to get him. At the end of the day, I was thinking about how to explain to him what had transpired and how it would change the world.
“Let us never forget,” Visconi said.
Bergen County James Tedesco compared yesterday’s crystal-clear weather with the day in 2001.
“There wasn’t a cloud in the sky. You could see clear into New York from New Jersey, Long Island and Connecticut. And you could see the smoke rising,” he said.
“There has been a movement afoot to have remembrances every five or 10 years,” Tedesco said. “But not while I’m here. I will always remember those who ran in. It was the largest rescue attempt in U.S. history. There were firefighters who took the elevator up not knowing they would never come down.”
Tedesco said as a firefighter, he and others from Paramus and Fair Lawn jumped in their trucks to go help.
“There were no cars, none, as we travelled into New York,” he said. “And then we emerged from the Holland Tunnel and the devastation, it was bad.”
Tedesco said he saw fire chiefs crying. “And it was then we learned that fire chaplain Michael Judge had been killed.”
The scene struck him, most notably the ash. “There was four to five inches of ash, it rose from every step.”
Tedesco, like many in the audience listening, became emotional.
“I will never forget. I will never let it be forgotten,” he said. “And those of you here today are saying the same.”
Germaine Ortiz, Bergen County Freeholder Chairwoman, said it was an honor for her to be there.
“Today is a tribute to our firefighters, the police, the paramedics,” she said. “To the doctors, the nurses, the medical staff. There were over 6,000 were injured, and to this day, still face illness.”
“This is a resolve for peace and remembrance,” Ortiz said. “We need to remind our children of what happened and give thanks for our freedom and unite as Americans.”
Members of Bergen New Bridge Pastoral Care called for peace and compassion amidst the sorrow. They called for higher powers to “lead the leaders,” and asked attendees to “see the best in each other.”
Melissa Wade, a resident at Bergen New Bridge, led the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance, followed by a moment of silence.
John Cosgrove, Fair Lawn Deputy Mayor of Community Affairs and Chairman of Bergen New Bridge Medical Center Foundation, concluded the ceremony.
“I remember the firefighters who went in with the crew from Paramus and Fair Lawn,” Cosgrove said. “Rich Pennacchio, who went in and brought a woman down 20 flights. She kept telling them to leave her behind. The building collapsed around them.
“It’s a true reminder to be kind to each other,” he said.
The remembrance concluded with the sound of bagpipes as those with red carnations laid them upon the monument.