BY JENNA HUTCHINS
Under a fleet of American flags and lit candles, the Stony Point community gathered at Town Hall to honor the victims of the September 11th attacks, 14 years to the day.
Town Supervisor Geoffrey Finn gave the opening statements, quoting a speech given by former Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy. “I know that for all of us here today, and for all Americans, September 11th has forever changed our world.” He described those that day who were “merely going about their daily routine, working hard to provide for their families and build a life they dreamed of.
“I believe that what shocked us the most that morning was not the method used to attack us, or the scope and magnitude of the attacks, but that it was our way of life that was attacked. Our way of life that embraces freedom and democracy.”
Finn went on to explain that our multitude of freedoms here in the United States, mainly our religious freedom and freedom of speech, left us vulnerable to attack by those who resent our way of life.
“The days after September 11th, we were left to console the inconsolable. The weeks after September 11th, we tried to explain the unexplainable. And in the months after September 11th, we tried to make sense out of the senseless. And even today, 14 years after September 11th, we strive to find hope in the moments of hopelessness that still haunt us.
“When we gather here next year, and the year after, and five years after that, and 10 years after that, nobody can promise that we will hurt less. No one can promise you that there will ever be a time when we don’t feel the emptiness.
“No words, no ceremonies, no plaques or stones, no amount of tears will ever replace our loss. But what this memorial can do is provide you whether you lost a husband, a wife, a parent, a child, a grandchild, a brother, a sister, a friend, with a solemn place to remember and mourn, to reflect and to move on each in our own way. And let this memorial service provide all of us here in Stony Point with a daily reminder to take nothing for granted. Appreciate our freedom. Count our blessings. Strive to help our fellow man. And cherish our friends and families.
“And let this memorial service be a reminder of the American spirit, which burns in all of us, the way of life which makes this the greatest nation on earth.
“Our American Spirit is defined by our innate ability to reach out and help others, even in times of unthinkable crisis and unfathomable odds. Just think about the courage of our policemen, our firefighters, our EMS, who rushed into two burning towers to bring thousands to safety. Or the courage of Flight 93 passengers who resolved to save the lives of perhaps hundreds of other innocent victims on the ground by storming the cabin of that plane.
“Our American Spirit is defined by our ability to move forward in the aftermath of overwhelming loss even when it seems easier to quit. Just think about the countless hours devoted to recovery operations at the World Trade Center and Pentagon sites. Or the way our town, our county, and our nation resolved to carry on, even with a heavy heart, by returning to work and remaining true to our principles of freedom and democracy.”
“Our American spirit is defined by our ability to rebuild, stronger and more united in purpose, and our brief history on this earth is testimony to that.”
“We Americans are sealed by a legacy of determination and resolve. For the most fitting memorial we can truly leave the almost 3,000 innocent lives lost on September 11, 2001, is not etched here in this stone, but etched in our hearts and in our souls as we continue to move forward in the pursuit of happiness and defense of liberty for all.”
Finn said that Levy’s 2009 speech was a perfect fit for the night’s ceremony.
With the opening words concluded, all in attendance recited the Pledge of Allegiance and sang along to the National Anthem. Deacon Phil Marino gave the invocation to the still standing crowd. He acknowledged the “bravery and sacrifice” of first responders and prayed for the comfort and healing of those personally affected by loss and hardship following the September 11th terrorist attacks.
After another song of honor and remembrance, and several bible passages, Finn called up a group of Boy Scouts to present a white rose for each of the six Stony Point residents lost in the attacks. Each rose was placed in front of the 9/11 memorial, across the walkway from the six blue chairs which sat empty in the front row. Those remembered included: Janet Alonso, Robert G. McCarthy, Luke Nee, Gerald O’Leary, Dennis J. O’Connor Jr., and Thomas G. Schoales.
A wreath of flowers was placed along side the roses. After singing “Amazing Grace,” candles were lit by all in attendance.
Speakers highlighted the unity of Americans in the aftermath of tragedy and spoke to the resilience of America. This idea was aided with the singing of “God Bless America.”
The benediction was read by Deacon Marino, also a former town supervisor. He gave appreciation to the servicemen and women in all departments who work tirelessly to care for and protect America. The evening was concluded with bagpipes and thanks to all who helped make the night possible, and special thanks to the one man standing in the back, wearing fatigues.
BY ROBERT KNIGHT
Nearly 200 somber people, including many first responders and their families, crowded into the small 9-11 Memorial Garden at Clarkstown Town Hall last Friday for the annual remembrance ceremony for town and county residents killed 14 years ago in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and other US landmarks.
While those in uniform at the ceremony mostly remained rigidly at attention during the half-hour event, the civilians in the crowd were equally as somber and silent, but for much of the service clung tightly to their spouses, parents, children and friends, occasionally letting go just long enough to find a tissue to dab their teary eyes.
Town Supervisor Alex Gromack was the keynote speaker, noting that “We will never forget” the tragedy that struck America on Sept. 11, 2001,when Islamic terrorists flew hijacked airliners into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in Manhattan, the Pentagon outside Washington, DC and a farm field in Shankesville, Pa.
More than 3,000 people were killed in the attacks, Gromack said, including 80 Rockland County residents, 25 of whom lived in Clarkstown and were well known throughout the community.
Master of ceremonies for the remembrance was Clarkstown Police Chaplain Rev. David Lothrop. After opening the ceremony promptly at 5 p.m., the police department honor guard posted the colors under bright sunny skies as the audience either saluted or placed their right hand over their heart.
There wasn’t a dry eye at the outdoor ceremony when the Pledge of Allegiance was led by Jefferson and Allison Crowther of Upper Nyack, the parents of Welles Remy Crowther. Crowther, a volunteer firefighter in his home village and a young bond trader in Manhattan, became famous during the Trade Center attack for being “the man in the red bandana” who saved the lives of scores of other workers in the twin towers that fateful day, only to meet his own demise when they collapsed before he could himself escape.
Four patriotic songs were performed during the ceremony, all led by the Hudson Voices Choir of the Rockland County Choral Society. Apparently taking their cue from the low volume and almost reverent tone of the male and female choristers, the audience appeared to silently mouth the words to the National Anthem, America the Beautiful, Amazing Grade and God Bless America, with their eyes either closed in prayer or gazing upward at the gently fluttering American flags.
The Choir was joined in Amazing Grade by the bagpipe band of the Rockland County Police Emerald Society, the joint presentation again bringing most in the audience to tears.
In a particularly moving part of the ceremony, the names of all 80 victims from Rockland were read aloud by Gromack, Council members Shirley Lasker, Frank Borelli, George Hoehmann and Stephanie Hausner along with Police Chief Michael Sullivan. As each name was spoken, a lone and lonely bell was sounded with a single stroke. Besides the names and the bell, there was total silence at the Town Hall plaza for more than ten minutes, with many in the audience who were family or friends of the fallen weeping silently and clenching their families as their loved ones’ name was spoken.
This was followed by the laying of a large wreath at the town’s 9-11 monument, slowly and ceremoniously carried and placed by a uniformed police officer and volunteer firefighter.
Following a moment of silence, bugler John Finnen of the Clarkstown School District played taps from a distance, slowly and almost imperceptibly at first, then rising in volume and pitch, and lowering in reverse as it ended, seeming to fade off into distance and memory.
After the ceremony ended at 5:30 p.m., participants were invited across the street for refreshments and socializing at the American Legion Post 1682 headquarters, which hosted the event along with the Rockland County Chapter of the Florian Association.
Among the groups represented at the ceremony were local chapters of the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Jewish War Veterans, Vietnam Veterans of America, Nam Knights, Rolling Thunder; New City, Nanuet, Congers-Valley Cottage and Spring Hill Volunteer Ambulance Corps; New City, Congers, Nanuet, Valley Cottage, West Nyack and Central Nyack Fire Departments, Clarkstown Police Department, police honor guard and auxiliary police and staff members from several town departments, including maintenance and parks and recreation.