BY ROBERT KNIGHT
ROCKLAND COUNTY TIMES
More than 100 Orangetown residents paid tribute to the victims of the 9-11 terrorist attack in solemn ceremonies for the tragic event’s 15th anniversary Sunday at the town’s memorial plaque and garden on the front lawn of the Town Hall in Orangeburg.
Every year Orangetown honors its citizens who were among the 3,000 victims of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Town supervisor Andy Stewart said the town will not forget their memory and also thanked Orangetown citizens who were first responders that day as well as others who risked danger and death to assist the thousands of survivors of the four dive-bomb attacks by hijacked jets into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a corn field in Shanksville, Pa.
Many of those killed, and many more of the survivors, were residents, family and friends of both Orangetown and Rockland County, the supervisor noted in his opening remarks.
The hour-long ceremony began and ended with clear but mournful renditions of The National Anthem and God Bless America by singer Rita Harvey, accompanied by the assembled dignitaries and guests in hushed tones. The event began and ended with the posting and later the retiring of the town, state and national banners by the Orangetown Police Department Honor Guard.
The Pledge of Allegiance was led by Orangetown Youth Court members Mark Anselmi and Julia Butterworth, with Butterworth also later reading a poem written for the occasion by Cathy Cavalcante called “Tears of Red, White and Blue.”
Pastor Angela Maddalone of the Palisades Presbyterian Church gave the opening invocation, while the concluding benediction was given by Rabbi Daniel Pernick of Pearl River’s Temple Beth Am. In clear but halting and nearly chocking words, Pernick emotionally recalled that two of the victims at the World Trade Center were his cousins, whose names now appear on various memorial plaques throughout the region.
Orangetown Poet Laureate Rose Marie Raccioppe read a poem she wrote especially for the memorial tribute entitled “We Gather in Solace and in Dedication, 9/11,” while Anselmi read another poem, entitled “We’re Still Standing,” which was written by Hannah Schoechert. One line seemed to especially strike a nerve and cause more than a few tears to be shed when Anselmi said: “These colors don’t run, and we are still standing”
Famed local musician Joe D’Urso sang a song he wrote for the occasion called “Never Missed You More.”
The primary speaker at the event was Robert (Bob) McGrath, the president of the Orangetown Police Department PBA, which organized Sunday’s memorial ceremony. The centerpiece of the ceremony was the reading of the list of 81 Rockland County residents, many from Orangetown, who perished in the 9-11 attacks.
Reading the names, in alphabetical order and in groups of about 12 apiece, were McGrath; John Antonucci, commander of the Raymond W. DeMeola VFW Post in Blauvelt; Diane Conklin, past president of the ladies auxiliary of the Blauvelt Volunteer Fire Company; Pastor Raymond Castro of the Inglesia La Mision Church in South Nyack, Orangetown Deputy Supervisor Allan Ryff, Joan Marie Skyward of the South Orangetown Ambulance Corps and Dr. Robert Schelin of the Tappan Volunteer Fire Association.
Wreaths and American flags placed at the memorial outside of Town Hall and visible from both Orangeburg Road and Dutch Hill Road, are lasting reminders of the poignant ceremony Sunday. The names of all the local deceased are permanently engraved in the memorial and may be visited at any time by parking in any of the lots surrounding the municipal building.