PATERSON, NJ - City, county, state and federal officials joined together with clergy, residents and more than 100 members of the Paterson Fire and Police Departments at the annual City of Paterson 911 Memorial Ceremony held Monday at Railroad Plaza.
Tributes to the victims, including Paterson resident Kenneth Patrick Lira who lost his life in the terrorist attacks while working on the 107th floor of the South Tower of the World Trade Center, were led by Mayor Joey “Jose” Torres.
During his remarks, Torres remembered Lira as a “distinguished son of Paterson” while also offering the nearly 250 emergency responders from Paterson that responded to the attacks and spent weeks participating in recovery and clean up efforts praise. Their efforts, he said, showed “we were not destroyed” but rather “were strengthened by the acts of courage of so many that day.”
The morning’s ceremony was punctuated with personal stories from several first responders and elected officials recalling their own memories of the day, and those immediately after, including Congressman Bill Pascrell, whom after arriving at the scene with several of his Congressional colleagues and President George W. Bush knew that “everything was going to be okay once I saw the patches of the Paterson Fire Department on the arms of several brave men working on the pile where the Twin Towers once stood.” In that moment he recalled, “the strength and resilience of our nation was shown through the bravery of our local heroes.”
Offering her own memories of the day that she lost her son, Marina Arevalo tearfully recalled attempts to reach Kenneth in the hours after the attacks occurred and her own belief that the events she was witnessing both on the television and from across the Hudson River in New Jersey couldn’t be real, too reminiscent of a scene from a movie.
Speaking prior to the event Luis Vega, Paterson’s longest serving active firefighter, recalled that for he and his fellow firefighters reporting to Ground Zero “wasn’t even a question” and that the work that they undertook that day to help reestablish a water supply to fight back the flames was simply a reflection that in firefighting there is no “typical day.”
(Photos by Steve Lenox)