SPOTSWOOD, NJ - The Spotswood School District marked the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy with a special ceremony at the borough's 9/11 Memorial in the front of Spotswood High School. Memorial Middle School's sixth grade class was in attendance. The ceremony was led by Spotswood High School junior and Spotswood Fire Department Cadet Robert Wehrle. Today's ceremony was the fourth that was organized and led by Wehrle. The borough's 9/11 Memorial was a result of the work of former Spotswood High School History teacher and Spotswood Fire Department member Frank Yusko.
The horrific events on September 11 claimed 2,753 lives at the World Trade Center site in Lower Manhattan. One hundred eighty-four more people died at the Pentagon while 40 additional lives were lost in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The FDNY lost 343 members of their units in the collapse of the World Trade Centers. The death toll continues to rise as first responders impacted by the toxic air at Ground Zero suffer from the effects.
Wehrle, who was not born yet at the time of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, spoke at this morning's ceremony along with Memorial Middle School Principal Brian Kitchin and Spotswood Police Department Sergeant Edward Schapley.
Both men shared their remembrances of the day. Schapley was a newly commissioned police officer who assisted with the rescue and cleanup effort at Ground Zero for two days following the attacks while Kitchin was a high school student. Kitchin remembers hearing the news on September 11 and thinking it was a mistake.
"Robert Wehrle explained the heaviness of the day he had learned by growing up with the fire department where his father is a longtime active member," Lorraine Wehrle said of her son's remembrances at today's ceremony. "He sadly shared about the loss of former Spotswood Mayor Nicholas Poliseno, who was also a member of the same fire department. Having known Mr. Poliseno his entire life, Robert was affected by the loss in July of another person who worked to help others following the attacks."
Poliseno passed away on Thursday, July 18 at his home from illnesses he contracted from his work as a first responder on September 11 according to his obituary. He was 41 years old.
Wehrle also stood as a honor guard at the borough's annual 9/11 ceremony along with fellow Spotswood Fire Department Cadets RJ Oross and Rupa Zimkus.
Communities around New Jersey are holding ceremonies today to mark the 18th anniversary of 9/11 including Middletown. Middletown lost 37 residents in the attack. The township's ceremony will be at 7:15 p.m in the World Trade Center Memorial Gardens in Middletown. New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy will be in attendance at a remembrance service this evening at Memorial Park in North Brunswick. The ceremony begins at 7 p.m. and wil be held rain or shine.
A reading of the names of all of the victims of September 11 by their family members began at the 9/11 Memorial in Manhattan at 8:46 a.m. this morning. The ceremony includes six moments of silence. The moments of silence mark when the planes hit the towers of the World Trade Centers, when the towers fell, the attack on the Pentagon in Washington D.C. and when Flight 93 crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.