WESTFIELD, NJ--On a warm weekday evening, Westfield's Lincoln Plaza is prone to being saturated with commuters heading home and people shopping or eating on Broad Street. On these warm nights it’s not unusual to see folks downtown crowded around live musicians or bands playing outside. But on this unusually hot September evening a large crowd, including prominent members of the community, solemnly filled Memorial Park for a different reason as the large American flag flew at half-mast.
“Life and love must go on,” said Westfield Mayor Andrew Skibitsky. “We will never forget those who perished.”
Twelve years after the tragic events of September 11, 2001, a day that is eternally etched into the memories of all Americans, the Town of Westfield held its 11th annual memorial ceremony at 6:30 p.m. at Memorial Park, where the monument to those who perished that day sits. Mayor Skibitsky opened the ceremony with a speech before reading the names of the 12 Westfield residents who died during the 9/11 attacks, followed by a moment of silence.
Westfield residents who died that day will forever be immortalized at the monument in Memorial Park. They are Andrew J. Alameno, David Otey Campbell, Michael A. Davidson, Dean P. Eberling, Stephen Mark Fogel, Thomas Glasser, Leo Russell Keene III, Richard B. Madden, John “Pepe” Salerno, See-Wong Shum, Anthony Starita and Jim Walsh.
The monument consists of 12 small obelisks, one for each Westfielder who perished, with each person's name and year of birth followed by 2001. There is also one large obelisk in the center of the park to honor all those who lost their lives on 9/11. During the ceremony, a small lit candle sat next to each of the 12 smaller obelisks surrounded by individual flowers, bouquets and American flags.
The park was the first permanent memorial in the New Jersey for the victims of 9/11. It was designed by residents Mark Fischbach and Craig Stock and was entirely built by 100 Westfield volunteers. By September 21, 2013, the monument was installed and in November 2003 “A Walk for Dads,” a walkway from the Westfield train station to the park where public school students put their footprints in wet concrete as a gift from the school children of Westfield, was added to the park.
Four religious leaders of various faith communities in Westfield attended the ceremony and relayed words of wisdom, healing and prayer.
“Continue to heal those whose suffering we cannot imagine,” said Rev. Michael Saporito, pastor of the Parish Community of St. Helen.
Rev. Dr. Mark Boyea, Senior Minister of the First Congressional Church, spoke about the significance of the number 12. Not only is 12 the number of Westfield residents whose lives were lost on 9/11 and the number of years since the tragedy, but the number also holds special significance in Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism and Christianity.
“Together we have helped humanity move one step closer to the 12 gates of New Jerusalem,” said Boyea.
After the prayers of commemoration was the presentation of the ceremonial wreath which was donated by resident Lisa Crosta. Then Dr. Ted Schlosberg performed “Taps” on the trumpet as the crowd that filled the park stood still in attention.
The ceremony concluded with a second silent reflection and a show of community support. Skibitsky described this ending as a way for each individual to personally reflect but not be alone.
“Links of life are broken,” said Senior Rabbi Douglas Sagal of Temple Emanu-El, “but links of love cannot break.”