By KATHY CHANG
EDISON — As Edison Township commemorated the events of Sept. 11, 2001, township officials called on Americans to rekindle the outpouring of love, cooperation and unity that followed those dark days 15 years ago.
“Thousands gave their lives that day,” said Councilman Leonard Sendelsky.
Council President Michael Lombardi led the ceremony, which was organized by the Edison Recreation Department and held in front of the 9/11 Memorial Fountain at Lake Papaianni Park on Sept. 11.
The ceremony included members of the Township Council, Police Chief Thomas Bryan, Police Lt. Anthony Marcantuono, Fire Chief Brian Latham, Freeholders Charles Tomaro, Charles Kenny, Kenneth Armwood, Assemblywoman Nancy Pinkin (D-Middlesex), Assemblyman Robert Karabinchak (D-Middlesex), state Sen. Patrick Diegnan (D-Middlesex), and Congressman Frank Pallone (D-Middlesex).
The Edison Police Department’s Honor Guard stood at attention as members of the J.P. Stevens High School Choir sang the national anthem and a local Boy Scout group led the Pledge of Allegiance.
Edison Township lost 11 of its own, and their names are memorialized on a plaque at the memorial fountain.
On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, 19 terrorists from al-Qaeda hijacked four commercial airplanes and deliberately crashed two planes into the World Trade Center and one plane into the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia. The fourth plane, Flight 93, crashed into an empty field in western Pennsylvania after passengers fought back.
During the ceremony, officials read the names — Kevin S. Cohen, Prem Nath Jerath, Sheldon R. Kanter, Vincent A. Laieta, James F. Lynch, Brian E. Martineau, Kaaria Mbaya, Manish K. Patel, Deepika K. Sattaluri, Scott M. Schertzer and Edward T. Strauss — as bagpipes played in the background.
Tomaro said recalling those horrific and painful events of that Tuesday morning in 2001 often brings anger and sadness.
“We have done our best to rebuild,” he said, adding that the events were moments that have been life-changing.
Police Lt. Marcantuono was one of 22 police officers who traveled to New York City in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks.
The department sent the largest number of officers to Ground Zero in Middlesex County.
“The city was silent and in darkness,” he said, adding that ash was coming down like snow. “All communication had been knocked out, and we had no contact with the outside world.”
Marcantuono said as they made their way to Ground Zero, they observed officers from the New York Port Authority covered in ash and soot and their faces were emotionally and physically drawn.
“There was no talking other than a nod of the head and a ‘thank you,’” he said.
Marcantuono said they assisted the New York City Police Department with securing the vast crime scene and assisted in the search, rescue and recovery efforts.
At daybreak on Sept. 12, 2001, Marcantuono said a crowd of people, including media and family members, came attempting to gain access to the site.
“Our role quickly shifted to crowd control in the days ahead,” he said.
Members of the Edison Police Department continued assisting in the weeks and months that followed, collecting food and water for emergency personnel.
Councilman Joseph Coyle said he traveled up the New Jersey Turnpike when he learned about the attacks. As a boater, he said he had access to the Weehawken waterfront and joined a group of makeshift volunteers assisting people who were getting off boats from the city.
“I saw the smoke and I saw the towers come down from the Hudson (River),” he said.
Coyle said he also traveled to Ground Zero and will never forget how dusty the air was and the burning of his eyes.