Twenty years later, We will never forget: First responders are ‘part of the best’


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The seven victims of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, who had ties to Burlington County ties are: Nicholas Bogdan, 34, Pemberton Township resident; Pamela Gaff, 51, Westampon native, who lived in Robbinsville; Joan D. Griffith, 39, Willingboro resident. LeRoy W. Homer Jr., 36, Evesham resident; Gricelda James, 44, Willingboro resident; Patrick Quigley IV, 40, Willingboro native; and Kevin York, 41, Pemberton Township native.

Burlington County held a solemn ceremony on Sept. 11 to mark the 20th anniversary of that fateful day.

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Held outside the Burlington County Emergency Services Training Center, the ceremony memorialized the nearly 3,000 victims  in total who lost their lives in the attacks, as well as the heroism displayed by countless first responders.

“The attacks changed us as individuals and as a nation,” Burlington County Commissioner Director Felicia Hopson, who led the ceremony, said, according to a statement released by the county. “It was a horrible tragedy and a brutal crime committed against our country and our people. But it was also a unifying one. Sept. 11 brought us together as one nation, blind to race, religion, status or political party. We united in mourning but also in the belief that by working together we can overcome whatever challenges we face.”

Phyllis Worrell, healthcare coordinator for the Burlington County Office of Emergency Management and emergency management coordinator for Virtua Health, was the keynote speaker, sharing her memories and reflections about her experiences at Ground Zero as a member of the New Jersey Task Force One Urban Search and Rescue Team that went there as part of the search, rescue and recovery efforts.

“It wasn’t until I came home, however, that I realized that the job God gave me wasn’t just to save a life. It was to help. It was to give support to our neighbors in their time of need,” Worrell said in the statement.

“For most of us who were there, we went willingly, even happily to help, always knowing there were risks. We did not sign up to die. We did not sign up to become ill. It is not part of our job. But almost to a man and woman, we would do it again – to try to save a life, to serve our community, to serve our country,” she said in the statement.

The ceremony also featured remarks from Lt. Colonel Geoffrey Noble, deputy superintendent of the New Jersey State Police.

“We all remember where we were that day, that sense of uncertainty about what’s coming next. Yet the men and women who have sworn an oath to serve – the first responders, the firefighters, the medics, EMTs and the troopers – we did not hesitate,” Noble said in the statement. “In that moment on that dark day of Sept. 11, I saw the very best. I stood with the best. I was with the best. I was humbled to be part of the best. I don’t mean the State Police. I mean the first responders. The men and women who without hesitation didn’t blink.”

The service also included a bagpipe processional, honor guard, musical performances, wreath presentations, and reading the names and short bios of the Burlington County victims.

During the ceremony, a New Jersey State Police helicopter also performed a flyover above the Emergency Services Training Center to commemorate the anniversary and those lost because of the attacks.

Commissioner Deputy Director Dan O’Connell and Commissioners Tom Pullion and Linda Hynes also participated in the service, which was organized by the commissioners with the assistance of the presidents of the police, fire and EMS chiefs’ associations.

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