By JENNIFER AMATO
NORTH BRUNSWICK — Although the township holds a Sept. 11 remembrance ceremony every year to honor the thousands of Americans who died in 2001, the 15th commemoration seemed all the more poignant and somber.
“Some of you will remember exactly where you were on that day, Sept. 11, 2001,” Lou Ann Benson, director of the Department of Parks, Recreation & Community Services, said during her opening remarks this past Sunday, Sept. 11, “but after 15 years each of us all remember the [actions] of our hometown heroes.”
North Brunswick police officers Vern Carmen, Chris Falletta, Gregory Gyumolcs, Jeff Smith, Wayne DeGaetano, Joseph Falcone, Carmine Soldano, Joseph Grasso and Mike Misurell; North Brunswick volunteer firefighters James Elmini, Gary Ewald, Eddie Glover, Chris Patakis, George Paynko Sr., George Paynko Jr., Brett Demarco, Scott Henry, Tom Lettieri, Matt Levine, Terrance Farrell, Dave Locha, Billy Lovas, Greg Masters, Steve Miller and Joe Whalen; and North Brunswick First Aid & Rescue Squad members Linda Warhaftig, Teresa Wegrzyn and Jodi Weyd all gave of their services in the aftermath of the terror attacks on the World Trade Center in New York.
“We gather this morning to remember, not simply to recall, the events of 15 years ago, but to remember the events of 15 years ago, and to remember what we learned … to honor those who lost their lives this day … and we remember the families whose trajectories were irrevocably changed,” said the Rev. Mark McGrath.
“We also remember the courage to put duty and citizenship above personal safety, of all those first responders. … Help us remember what happened to us as a country in the immediate aftermath, the unity, the shared tears … the sacrifices and compassion and willingness to put aside our differences and stand arm in arm … and in remembering, let us change how we live … and of course help us remember what it means to stand together as one family, despite our differences, and put away the negative effects of hatred and pain,” he said.
Following the opening procession of the honor guard and bagpipes, North Brunswick Fire Chief Ken Graulich led the Pledge of Allegiance before Sabrina VanVliet sang the “Star Spangled Banner.” Bells tolled as a symbol of reflection for when each tower, the Pentagon and Flight 93 were attacked.
“The events of Sept. 11 are so intensely personal and also so intensely unifying as a nation,” Mayor Francis “Mac” Womack said. “I’m so proud to live in a place that is almost in the shadow of the World Trade Center. … We still honor those who went to work that day and didn’t come home.”
The North Brunswick Township High School band offered a patriotic musical selection, while members of the North Brunswick Youth Council read “The Power of One” by Cheryl Sawyer and the North Brunswick Township High School Student Government Organization Executive Board shared their thoughts on the day.
Members of the North Brunswick September 11 Committee then laid wreaths on the memorial site, after which VanVliet sang “God Bless America.”
“Today, we are a stronger and more unified nation. We saw the power of evil but we saw the strong power good is,” said Rabbi Mendy Carlebach of the Chabad of North and South Brunswick. “We thank God for the opportunity to call this country our home, for it truly is the land of the free and the home of the brave.”
As “Taps” was played by Jonathan Germosen, residents were invited to place flowers at the monument, while a tree donated by Livingston Nursery was planted behind the memorial site.
The North Brunswick September 11 Committee members include Benson, McGrath, Dan Jolly, Bob Davis, Ann DiStefano, Dan DiStefano, Ann Coscione, Ken McCormick and Roni Salkin.
In the weeks leading up to the ceremony, an art contest was held in the township. Avani Gupta, a kindergartener from Livingston Park Elementary; Selma Elbenni, a first grader from Judd Elementary; and Chinmayi Chittamuri, a fourth grader from Parsons Elementary, had their artwork displayed in the program booklet.
Contact Jennifer Amato@gmnews.com.