Under a cloudless blue sky, East Windsor Township residents came together to remember the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks – 18 years to the day of the event.
From words of inspiration to words of reflection and words of remembrance – punctuated by renditions of “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “God Bless America” – residents and emergency responders alike looked back on Sept. 11, 2001.
Reflecting on Sept. 11, 2001, the Rev. Suzanne Schaffer-Coates, the minister of the First Presbyterian Church of Cranbury, asked attendees whether images of the Twin Towers, the Pentagon or even a beautiful September day takes them back to that day.
“For many of us, 9/11 was a significant national event in our lives,” Rev. Schaffer-Coates said. For younger people, it has the same significance as the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, she said.
One of the things that grieves her, Rev. Schaffer-Coates said, is that so many of the first responders who worked on “The Pile” – the rubble from the Twin Towers – is that so many of them are now becoming ill and dying because of what they handled and what they breathed.
When people ask whether it is possible to go back to Sept. 12, when people supported each other in the aftermath of the terror attacks, Rev. Schaffer-Coates pointed out that Muslims had a different experience. There was great hatred expressed toward them, she said.
Rev. Schaffer-Coates told the attendees that she was officiating at a graveside service in Brainerd Cemetery in Cranbury recently. As she looked around, she noticed that she was standing near Todd Beamer’s grave – the passenger on United Airlines Flight 93 who led the charge to take down the hijacked jet before it could crash into another building.
Rev. Schaffer-Coates said that on Beamer’s headstone are the words from the Prophet Micah – “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
“I think by embracing those words – ‘act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with your God’ – is how we will go forward on Sept. 12, 2019 and in the future,” she said.
Mayor Janice S. Mironov said the first 9/11 memorial service in the township was held 30 days after the event, and it has been held annually.
“It is really important that we remember and that we pass on our memories of the tragic events that occurred on that day to others in our community. It is the memory of our lifetime,” Mayor Mironov said, adding that “for sure, (9/11) has forever changed all of us.”
“Killing and unprovoked killing is never justified, and this, I think it is fair to say, falls into a category of its own as pure evil,” she said. Sept. 11, 2001 is different from all of the other “horrible” events that have occurred in American history, she said.
Mayor Mironov urged the attendees to use the annual ceremony as an opportunity to reflect on what is important to them, and to commit themselves so those values are “preserved, promoted, expanded and improved.”
Mayor Mironov read the names of six East Windsor Township residents who were killed on 9/11 – Colleen Barkow, Lorraine Bay, Debbie Bellows, Anil Bharvaney, Neil Lai and Ruth Lapin. Five of them worked at the World Trade Center and one was a flight attendant on United Airlines Flight 93.
The way the victims can best be remembered and honored is by keeping their memories in every good deed and act of community service “that we all do as individuals,” Mayor Mironov said.
Mayor Mironov also praised the first responders – from volunteer firefighters and emergency medical technicians to police officers – who are ready to respond every day, around the clock.
“So that’s my big message to leave with you today. Be a part of your neighborhood, your family, our community and our nation,” Mayor Mironov said.
Then, Mayor Mironov, East Windsor police Lt. Eric Lion, police Sgt. Ryan Mattek and Patrolman Nicholas Enea placed a wreath at the township’s 9/11 memorial. Lt. Lion and Sgt. Mattek are U.S. Air Force veterans and Patrolman Enea is a U.S. Marine Corp veteran.
Wrapping up the 9/11 remembrance ceremony, volunteer firefighter Harvey Bailey of East Windsor Volunteer Fire Co. No. 1 sang “God Bless the U.S.A.”
Then, led by elected officials, the attendees sand “God Bless America.”