By Maria Mirakaj Brownsell
The sun was shining especially hot this past Wednesday as a crowd gathered under trees seeking shade during the September 11th Remembrance Ceremony for the Town of Clarkstown. In the park adjacent to Clarkstown Town Hall, a monument stands in the ground remembering all those who were lost during that tragic day in 2001. The Nam Knights stood along one perimeter and police officers another. Firefighters, EMT’s, veterans, political figures, and families all listened in silence to the words spoken.
Police Chaplain David S. Lothrop was the Master of Ceremonies for the afternoon. The Clarkstown Police Honor Guard did the presentation of colors. Dan Novotny, whose brother died during the attacks, led the crowd in the pledge of allegiance. Helen Smith, a student from Clarkstown South High School, sang the National Anthem. After the posting of the colors, Supervisor Alexander Gromack spoke to the crowd.
“It does not help us to forget, it only helps us to remember. It has now been over a decade since the attacks on September 11th 2001 and hard as it is, we will continue to meet year after year to embrace the strength to remember. Some may ask why we continue to hold these memorials. We remember not only because that event changed how we view our world and our lives, but because we know that we must honor and always remember those that we lost,” said Gromack. “We must always remember the police, fire, and emergency workers who responded to the scene and risked and sacrificed their lives while trying to save others.”
Many important people were in attendance at the Memorial Ceremony including: New York State Senator David Carlucci, New York State Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski, Rockland County Clerk Paul Piperato, Sheriff Lou Falco, former councilman John Maloney, former Spring Valley Judge and Legislator David Fried, Chief of Police Michael Sullivan, all the Clarkstown town board members, and many others.
Gromack, Councilwoman Shirley Lasker, Councilman Frank Borelli, Councilman George Hoehmann, Councilwoman Stephanie Hausner and Police Chief Michael Sullivan read the names of the 81 people from Rockland County that were victims on September 11th 2001, and one from the 1993 bombing. A bell was rung for each victim individually. 25 of the victims were from Clarkstown.
Many people remember the moment clearly where they were when they heard of the attacks. Twelve years may have passed, but it feels like yesterday to so many.
“I was at a golf committee meeting of the Police Chief’s Foundation. At first we all thought it was a horrific accident, but as more information came in and the second plane attacked the trade center we knew this was no accident,” said Borelli. “My first thought was of my wife and children and other family members, and knowing they were safe and not in New York City was a great relief. I then thought of the others who were not as fortunate and prayed they would okay, but knew that we had the best emergency response team in the world and they would do everything they could to help the victims of the attack.”
“When the attacks of September 11, 2001 occurred I was a member of the New York State Assembly and I was in my district office in New City. Someone from my office staff informed me that a plane crashed into the World Trade Center Tower. My first thought was it was a mistake or at the very worst a small plane accidentally hit the tower. It never crossed my mind, in that moment, that it was a commercial airliner and even worse a terrorist attack. The first and early reports that it could be an accident turned into a national nightmare that changed how we function as a free society forever,” said Gromack.
“I was a senior in high school at Clarkstown South in AP European History. A few classmates got text alerts on their phones and at first we didn’t know what to think. Then they got another message, and I remember an announcement being made over the loudspeaker. After I found my brother we went home just as my dad had gotten home from the city and we watched the news coverage all together as we waited to hear about loved ones who worked near the WTC,” said Hausner. “I think the first thought I had was of family members who worked in New York City. Once I had gotten home, my thought turned to what could I do to help.”
“I was at the Clarkstown Sunrise Rotary Club weekly meeting. I left from and recall looking at the sky and how beautiful the day was. I got in my car turned on the radio and learned of the plane crash into the first tower and thought ‘how strange on such a clear day for this to happen. At my home I turned on the television and was watching for a short period of time when in horror I saw the second plane hit the towers–it was clearly no accident or wayward pilot as the announcer had been speculating. It was completely apparent that life had changed for the worse for all of us,” said Hoehmann. “I immediately called my wife in NYC who was working at St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital at the time and we talked about her being safe.”