WEST ORANGE, NJ – Marking the 18th anniversary of the tragedies that occurred in New York, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania on Sept. 11, 2001, Essex County residents, elected officials, local clergy members and more attended the “Essex County Remembers” ceremony held annually at the Eagle Rock Sept. 11 Memorial in West Orange.
Standing in front of a backdrop of the New York City Skyline and surrounded by several memorials made for those who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001, Emmy Award-Winning TV Host Stephen Adubato, Jr., PhD hosted the brief ceremony and made sure to break from the ceremony at exactly 8:46 a.m. and 9:03 a.m. to observe a moment of silence for American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175, respectively.
At the invite of Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr., several elected officials also offered remarks about Sept. 11 and reflected on the 18 years that have passed since the tragedy occurred. Some of them took the time to remember where they were that day, but every person who spoke agreed that no one should forget what happened on that ill-fated Tuesday morning.
“On that day, there were spouses, there were parents, there were grandparents, there were children born and unborn, attached to the lives of those who were inside of those crumbling towers,” said New Jersey Lt. Governor Shelia Oliver, reflecting on the victims of Sept. 11 who were “left behind” by their loved ones.
Although those family members will “always carry the scars of losing a family member in a horrific event,” the Lt. Governor also implored everyone in attendance to live life “each day as if it’s the last one,” because “we never know the hour, the day or the minute,” she said.
“Do not take life for granted,” said Oliver. “Make certain that you use every one of your God-given talents to make a contribution—not just to this county, in this state, but to this country and to the world.”
Sen. M. Teresa Ruiz noted that the anniversary should remind all citizens that every day is a new opportunity “to wake up and live it with our loved ones” and that all elected officials have “a true responsibility […] to teach the students and the future generation of what happened that day.”
“We have a true responsibility to gather; to remember; to celebrate, but as elected officials, we have to be concerned about those that were impacted long after the events—people who are still epically facing health problems and conditions,” she said.
On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, when DiVincenzo was serving as president of the Essex County Board of Freeholders, he said his then 19-year-old daughter was on the who to alert him about the attacks.
He explained that by the time night fell that day, he knew Eagle Rock was going to be the location of a memorial because he, along with others in the community, found themselves spontaneously drawn to the lookout point in order to watch what was happening. When he met with his freeholder colleagues, DiVincenzo said he wanted to create the memorial within the year “because people have a tendency of forgetting.”
With the help of Gov. Jon Corzine, who was senator at the time, the county was able to raise $1.2 million to build the memorial, which was dedicated in October 2002.
DiVincenzo added on Tuesday that he wanted to bring his 8-year-old granddaughter to this year’s ceremony, but was reminded that the world has changed since the tragedies occurred.
“Since 9/11, our world has changed forever,” the county executive said. “It’s not the same. And why would I put my 8-year-old granddaughter through that now?”
Several members of the audience were overcome with emotion as the names of the 57 members of the Essex County community whose lives were lost in the attacks were read by:
- William Payne, Essex County Deputy Chief of Staff;
- Philip Alagia, Essex County Chief of Staff;
- Megan Duger, whose mother, Antoinette Duger, worked on the 47th floor of the World Trade Center (WTC) and did not survive the attacks;
- Deborah Calimano, a United Airlines flight attendant who helped to create the flight crew memorial at Eagle Rock;
- LeRoy Jones, Chairman of the Essex County Democratic Committee;
- Elisa Charters, a 9/11 survivor who worked on 21st floor of the WTC;
- Dr. James Pedersen, Superintendent of the EC Schools of Technology; and
- Kenneth Nieves, a student from EC West Caldwell School of Technology, who also offered a memorial wreath on behalf of the school.
With the help of the team that DiVincenzo assembled 18 years ago, he said that the “Essex County Remembers” program continues to this day because the county “made a commitment to people that we will never, ever forget what happened that day.”
Although Gov. Phil Murphy was unable to attend the event, he sent a proclamation declaring Sept. 11 as “Patriot Day” and a “day of service and remembrance.”
During the ceremony, singer-songwriter Arlette performed a variety of songs, including the National Anthem, “Ave Maria” and her own song entitled “One September Morning.”