SOMERVILLE, NJ – First responders, clergy, public officials and residents gathered at the Somerset County 9/11 Memorial Sunday morning to reflect on the horrors of that fateful day 15 years ago when the United States was attacked by terrorists, killing nearly 3,000 people in New York City, Washington, DC, and on an ill-fated jet that crashed into a field in Shanksville, Pa.
The Somerset County Police Pipes & Drums performed on the lawn in front of the county administration building before the ceremony began with the tolling of bells and a moment of silence at 8:46 a.m., the time when the first hijacked jet struck the first World Trade Center tower.
Participating in the ceremony were the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office Honor Guard and Sheriff Frank J. Provenzano, who led the Pledge of Allegiance.
Rev. Paul Janssen of the United Reformed Church in Somerville gave the invocation, honoring those innocent victims whose lives were cut short; those who gave their lives in the valiant rescue attempt, and those who survived only to be afflicted with cancer and other maladies as a result of their exposure to the dust and rubble of “The Pile,” during the year-long clean-up of the World Trade Center towers in New York City.
He encouraged all religions and all people to weave together a worldwide culture that seeks “justice, not vengeance” and to bless first responders and the military for their good work “in places we do not wish to go.”
Somerset County Freeholder Director Patrick Walsh presided during the 30-minute ceremony.
“Our lives and our way of life were forever changed on September 11. That is especially true for families who lost loved ones that tragic morning,” Walsh said. “It is important for us, as a community and as a nation, to remember not only the events of September 11, but also the people who died that day, because that is how they live on – in our hearts and in our memories.”
The names of 39 Somerset County residents killed in the terrorist attacks are memorialized on a plaque that is fastened to a steel beam recovered from the World Trade Center that forms the centerpiece of the clock tower memorial at the corner of East Main Street and North Bridge Street.
Each of the victim’s names was read aloud by the freeholders.
Walsh introduced New Jersey Rep. Leonard Lance, R-7th, who emphasized the need to always remember and never forget and the need to continually retell the story of 9/11 to ensuing generations.
The freeholders placed a red, white and blue memorial wreath alongside the memorial, which was followed by a moment of silence.
Junior Girl Scouts from Troop 60151 in Franklin Township placed small rocks that they painted in memory of the 9/11 tragedy at the base of the clock tower.
“These young ladies weren’t even born yet when the tragedy occurred. They don’t know a world that doesn’t include common words like 9/11, Ground Zero and terrorism,” Walsh said. “I find it moving that these young Scouts are with us today to commemorate those who died 15 years ago. By placing the memorial rocks at the base of the clock tower, they are affirming Somerset County’s promise to Never Forget,” she added.
Members of Troop 60151 who made the memorial rocks included Niara Beckwith, Helena Centolanza, Pia Donnelly, Saraiah Hoover, Sophia Magee, Ariana Peart, Amira Pinkett, Alyssa Robinson, Ava Rollino, Noelle Tatum, Allison Ulm and Mykaela Sanders-Washington.
The commemorative rocks will be on display in the county Administration Building, located at 20 Grove St., between Sept. 19 and Oct. 14.
The ceremony closed with a recording of Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA.”