NEWTON, NJ – Under a sky reminiscent of that fateful morning 16 years ago, about 150 people gathered on the field near the 9/11 monument at Sussex County Community College. Students, faculty, residents, police officers, fire fighters and elected officials gathered to remember.
The event began with a recording of children talking about their experiences that day. The color guard, led by a bagpiper, paraded to the podium set in front of the monument. A flag was unfurled and raised by Newton Police Officers Ed Sperling and Mahir Kaylani. Father S.T. Sutton of Saint Joseph's Church led an invocation asking that "we remember the victims in New York, Washington DC and Pennsylvania and strengthen our resolve to never let it happen again." This was the theme for the ceremony.
The flag had been brought by Sperling. He had flown it over Camp Bala Sar, Kabul Base Cluster in Kabul Province, Afghanistan where he had served in the military.
“I am donating this flag to the college to be flown on 9/11,” Sperling said.
Newton Police Officer Jared Zappa led the crowd in the pledge of allegiance. Sussex County Community College student Julia Richards followed, singing the National Anthem.
Hon. Lorraine Parker welcomed the group.
“It is a beautiful morning, just as it was that day before the world turned upside down for many of us,” Parker said.
Speaking of the importance of the annual ceremonies of remembrance, Parker said many of the students at the school were only two-years-old on that day “so they have no memory of that day.” She spoke of those who put their lives at risk then and now, for our safety.
“We must rise up with one voice to say we will not tolerate terrorism, whether imported or from here,” Parker said. “Our first responders deserve no less.”
Sperling was next to the podium.
“Today we never forget the nearly three thousand lives taken from us,” Sperling said. “Honor the lives of the first responders. We resolve to do everything in our power to preserve their memory.
He finished by saying we must “stay true to ourselves, stay true to who we are.”
"God Bless America" was sung by retired Newton Police Officer Arthur Sibblies. His rendition moved many to tears as it echoed across the campus.
After a wreath was laid at the monument by Sheriff Officer Kieran McMorrow and Newton Fire Chief Jason Miller taps was played by buglers Bob Caggiano of Bugles Across America and Sergeant Michael Scuzzese of the Sussex County Sheriff’s Department Bureau of Corrections Honor Guard.
Many of the students in attendance were part of Wendy Cooney's Criminal Justice class.
Carmelo Calascibeppa of Hampton said the ceremony was well done. “If people didn’t know about [the attacks] they did a good job of presenting it.”
Another student remembers being in his fourth-grade class at Parkway School in Paramus. “I remembered them making an announcement that school was going to be closed” and that one of his classmate’s father had lost his life at ground zero. The student is also a fire fighter in Matamoras, Pennsylvania and said he was going to be attending another ceremony that night.
Newton Police Chief talked about the placement of the memorial on the grounds of the campus. “We had considered the fair grounds and other locations but it we decided this would be better for the students to remember.”
“Sixteen years later and we’re still there,” Senator Steve Oroho said. "It is important that we always remember. It will always be with us.”