SPARTA, NJ – Some things are too important to be canceled. The Sparta Elks annual ceremony remembering those who lost their lives to the 9-11 terrorist attacks was held on the plaza in front of the municipal building on Friday.
Sparta Elks Lodge 2356 Anthony Alfonso was the Master of Ceremonies for the early morning event.
The crowd was smaller and there were fewer participants but the sentiment, bringing tears at times, remained.
“Most of us can remember exactly where we were and what we were doing when the first plane struck the North Tower at 8:46 a.m. on that cloudless, crystal clear morning,” Sparta Police Chief Neil Spidaletto said.
Spidaletto recited the numbers that tell only part of the story of the day: “2,977 people perished this day, 343 FDNY Firefighters perished on this day, 60 Police Officers of the Port Authority and NYPD perished on this day.”
“With broken hearts and heavy sous, through eyes filled with tears, we prayed for rescues that would not come and for the heroes, some from our own community, that were relentless in the search,” Deputy Mayor Christine Quinn said.
Vice Commander of the Sparta VFW Post 7248 Doug Nobile led the Pledge of Allegiance and young Theresa Peduto sang the National Anthem.
In addition to the American Flags and Elks banner, two artifacts were on displayed. Spidaletto told the crowd they were two pieces of the South Tower that were formed into the sign of the cross.
“This was lent to us to John Bojitos, a police officer with the Boundbrook Police Department and Somerset Count Sheriff’s department for the last 26 years,” Spidaletto said. “Officer Bojitos responded to ground zero and worked for months at this location that came to be known as ‘the pit,’ assisting the NYPD Emergency Services Units with recovery and clean up.”
“On that day, ordinary people transformed into extraordinary heroes,” Quinn said. “People we never knew became people we would never forget.”
The Elks ceremony includes the ringing of a ceremonial bell at 8:46 a.m. and 9:03 a.m. the time each tower was struck.
Officer Brian Porter played a tribute to the fallen, “Going Home,” summing up the somber tone of the morning.
“As we come together today, remembering the loss, let’s also remember the courage, patriotism and compassion that resulted,” Quinn said. “One Nation Under God, United we stand…19 years later, we will never forget.”
“Even in difficult times as of right now, with the unrest that is occurring in our great nation, we must never forget the sacrifices made and be ever more vigilant and alert to those that want to harm our country so something like this never occurs again,” Spidaletto said.