East Windsor Township residents gathered at the municipal building this week, as they have every September for the past 17 years, to remember the six residents who died in the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks and to pay tribute to East Windsor’s first responders.
Five township residents – Colleen Barkow, Debbie Bellows, Anil Bharvaney, Neil Lai and Ruth Lapin – were killed when the Twin Towers at the World Trade Center collapsed after being struck by a pair of hijacked airliners.
A sixth resident, Lorraine Bay, was a flight attendant on United Airlines Flight 93. She died when the passengers forced the jet to crash in a field in rural Pennsylvania after it was hijacked.
The Rev. Suzanne Schafer-Coates of the First Presbyterian Church of Cranbury told the attendees on Sept. 11 she often cries when she sees images of the Twin Towers at the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan.
The deaths of the six township residents affected many people in the community and beyond, Schafer-Coates said. She said she thinks of Hightstown resident Donald Fallon, whose brother, Bill Fallon, died on Sept. 11.
Schafer-Coates also mentioned Todd Beamer, who lived in Hightstown and later moved to Cranbury. He was part of the group of passengers that forced Flight 93 into the ground before it could reach its intended target, which officials said may have been the White House or the Capitol in Washington, D.C.
But the remembrance ceremony is about more than recalling the civilians who were killed. It is also about honoring the first responders – police officers, emergency medical technicians and firefighters – who gave up their lives that day, she said.
“What would they say to us, who have the privilege of living?” Schafer-Coates asked.
Answering her own question, she urged the attendees to think about what they can do. They can vote, they can love their neighbor, welcome the stranger and be the best person they can be. That is how the living can best honor the dead “and that’s why we come to remember,” she said.
Police Chief James Geary said the deaths of nearly 3,000 people, including about 400 first responders, left an indelible mark on the United States and on East Windsor. The community gathers every year so the families of those who were impacted will know their loved ones have not been forgotten, he said.
Geary also encouraged the attendees to reflect on the dedication of the community’s first responders – the police officers, volunteer firefighters and emergency medical technicians.
In her remarks, Mayor Janice S. Mironov said this was the 17th time she has addressed residents in her role as mayor, and that “we will continue to gather to underline the importance of this day.”
Mironov said she had spoken to someone who told her that watching the events of Sept. 11 on television, years after the attacks took place, “never gets old. It feels today almost as if it was that day when we watch it on television.”
“We all knew someone who perished that day, who was affected that day, who had stories to tell” of narrowly missing death, she said. They were late for work or had an appointment and did not go to work at the World Trade Center that day.
“That day is forever inscribed in our hearts and in our souls,” the mayor said. It is important to remember that day and the “unthinkable, pure evil,” she said, adding that its impact “changed the life of each of us for eternity.”
The memory of that event should empower everyone to believe what it means to be an American and not to take it for granted, Mironov said. She also urged the attendees to remember the acts of kindness that followed in the days after Sept. 11.
Mironov called on the attendees to recognize, honor and appreciate the efforts of the township’s volunteer firefighters and emergency medical technicians who answer every call, every day of the year.
Wrapping up the ceremony, Mironov and four East Windsor police officers – Sgt. Eric Lion Sgt. Ryan Mattek and patrol officers Michelle McCandrew and Nicholas Enea, all military veterans, placed a wreath at the memorial to the Sept. 11 victims.