LITTLE FALLS, NJ - A solemn ceremony was held in the township that marked the 16th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
Held at Wilmore Park, the ceremony was organized by the 9/11 committee and took place in front of the Sept. 11 memorial, where close to 75 attendees came together to reflect upon the tragic events of that day.
The monument that served as the ceremony's backdrop backdrop displays two pieces of World Trade Center steel and an 8 by 6 foot waterfall, with engraved words "Never Forget - September 11, 2001." The five foot long I-beams were erected during a funeral-styled procession in 2011, to mark the decade anniversary of the attacks.
Special homage was paid to a resident and former resident of the township who both died that day. Linda Rosenbaum, 41, was a claims specialist for Marsh & McLennan and Robert Cordice, 28, formerly a volunteer firefighter in Little Falls, who was among the 343 firefighters killed that day. A plaque is also dedicated in his memory at the fire department's memorial.
Councilman Chris Vancheri welcomed attendees and introduced those taking part in the ceremony. He recalled the events from that day.
"The images will be forever etched in our minds when four planes tragically were hijacked by terrorists and two crashed into the twin towers in New York City, one into the Pentagon and the other that crashed outside of a field in Pennsylvania," he said. "On that day, over 3,000 men and women were killed. There were 400 police officers and fire department members killed trying to do what they do best - help others. We'll never forget what happened and we're here today to honor two special people as well - Little Falls resident Linda Rosenbaum and FDNY firefighter, Robert Cordice."
A moment of silence was then held. Afterwards, local singer Stella Crispo gave her rendition of the National Anthem.
Deacon Joe Sisco, chaplain of the Little Falls Fire Department, conducted the invocation, and also gave a Fireman's Prayer.
"We pray for those who died in the 9/11 attacks, and for those who grieve and those who survived. Let us continue to seek peace through our words and actions," he said.
Little Falls Mayor James Belford Damiano, then spoke on the lasting effects of that day and how it brought out the best in people through horror and tragedy.
"The phrase 9/11 will always evoke a special meaning. For most, a sad meaning, but for all, a memory in a moment of history when the world as we knew it changed forever," he said. "It is fitting that we remember on this day as a tribute to those lives cut short, as a symbol of the empty places left behind, in the hearts of all of those still living. Today, we remember and we celebrate what we learned about ourselves, Sept. 11, 2001. We recalled how we as a nation, acted that day and the weeks following that tragic event. We remember once again how ordinary human beings with ordinary lives, reacted with extraordinary heroism. Today, we remember."
The ceremony traditionally showcases local district children who have written poems about 9/11. Jasmine Campagna, Andrew White, Emma Giron, Megh Prajapati and Bianca Marie Hamlin, were the five students who were selected to read their poems this year. Each student read their heartfelt words about a dreaded day - occurring years before they were born, and each put a positive and hopeful spin on the day's outcome, referencing what America stands for.
Vancheri thanked Schools No. 1 and No. 2, including Superintendent Tracey Marinelli for coordinating the poem. The School No.1 choir also performed "God Bless the U.S.A." by Lee Greenwood.
Little Falls Fire Department Chief Jack Sweezy also spoke during the ceremony. He asked everyone in attendance to remember where they were that day.
"Remember what you were doing, just going about your day," he said. "I think about it all the time, as to people that we lost that day. Just people going to work. That's what America is all about - going to work and providing for your family."
He also commented on the township's 9/11 monument, including the Cordice family.
"It's nice to see all the work put into the monument and to just sit on that bench and reflect on that day 16 years ago," he added. "Robert Cordice was one of 343 firefighters killed in the line of duty that day. You never want to forget all the firefighters, police, first responders and Port Authority personnel that were lost from that time till this day, in the recovery efforts. It's just sometimes overlooked, so today is a day of reflection."
He then turned to the Cordice family and said, "You're part of our family," and added that the newly installed benches were provided by generous donations, local fire department and Department of Public Works workers.
Damiano and council members then placed the wreath at the 9/11 Memorial, followed by Chief Steven post and members of the Little Falls Police Department placing a wreath at the memorial. Then Sweezy and the Cordice family placed the wreath at the FDNY Firefighter Robert Cordice Memorial. Little Falls EMS department also placed a wreath at the 9/11 Memorial.
Recordings of Amazing Grace and Danny Boy reverberated throughout the ceremony. The Passaic Valley High School Band, led by music teacher Mike DeLuccia performed "America the Beautiful."
Pastor Emily Youngberg from the First Reformed Church gave a closing prayer.
"We think of those who struggle with illnesses from the attacks to this day," she said in one of her comments.
The Passaic Valley High School Marching Band and Little Falls School No.1 Choir presented "God Bless America."
Vancheri gave some closing words and afterwards, reflected on the ceremony.
"I was honored to emcee the Little Falls 9/11 Memorial Service on September 11th," said Councilman Vancheri. "The events from 16 years ago remain fresh in my mind and it was great to see the town come together to honor those lost on 9/11 including two of our own Linda Rosenbaum and FDNY Firefighter Robert Cordice."
Local resident Kathy Wilson, whose daughter Karen Wilson, performed with the high school marching band, appreciates the ceremony each year.
"It's always nice to come out and reflect every year," she said. "It's important to remember, and especially for children, who weren't even born yet, to come out and take part in the ceremony so that they can reflect upon what happened."