EDISON – It began as just an ordinary morning on Sept. 11, 2001.
Police Chief Thomas Bryan, who was an officer in Internal Affairs at the time with the Edison Police Department (EPD), was talking to a friend on his way to work.
Council President Joseph Coyle was at work.
Council Vice President Joyce Ship-Freeman was working at a school.
Councilwoman Margot Harris was heading to a routine dentist appointment.
Councilman John Poyner was a sophomore in high school sitting in class.
Councilman Nishith Patel was also a sophomore in high school sitting in class
Mayor Sam Joshi was a seventh grader in middle school sitting in class.
U.S. Congressman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) was on the floor of the House of Representatives in Washington D.C.
Officials shared their story during the township’s remembrance ceremony on Sept. 11 held in council chambers. Usually, the remembrance ceremony is held at Papaianni Park’s 9/11 Memorial Fountain, but it was moved inside because of the rain.
Bryan served as the keynote speaker.
He told the crowd he along with another officer was tasked to reach out to the 20-plus schools in Edison and prepare principals and school administrators for what may happen.
“No officer or chief ever wants to have to instill the anxiety and fear into school administrators [that was made that day], but that job had to be done,” Bryan said.
The chief said they made sure the 1,000-plus children made it home safely that day. Unfortunately, for one of the students, she lost her father, Brian E. Martineau, Bryan said.
Chelsea Martineau and her family attended the ceremony along with Kevin S. Cohen’s family.
Edison lost 11 residents during the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks: Martineau, Cohen, Prem Nath Jerath, Sheldon R Kanter, Vincent A. Laieta, Karia Mbaya, Manish K. Patel, Deepika Kumar Sattaluri, Scott M. Schertzer, Edward T. Strauss, and James Lynch.
This year marks 21 years since the attacks, which killed close to 3,000 people when four passenger airliner planes were hijacked by al-Queda, an Islamic terrorist group. Two planes slammed into the World Trade Center buildings in New York City and one plane hit the Pentagon building in Washington D.C. Another hijacked plane – Flight 93 – initially headed to Washington D.C., was thwarted by passengers and crashed in a field near Shanksville, Pa.
Bryan said during the aftermath, 22 officers from EPD’s Emergency Response team traveled to Ground Zero to provide assistance.
“(The officers) spent a lot of time there walking through the streets,” he said. “When they came back and told the story of the dust and soot walking through, they said it was like a ghost town.”
He noted some of the officers, who were part of the response team, are experiencing health problems to this day.
As everyone reflects on the tragedies, Bryan said it’s important to never forget and remember the empathy and how the country united.
“We need to pause, look back and take a look at the big picture and think about why we are all here,” he said. “We’re here to help each other be the best we can be no matter what.”
Harris said after the terrorist attacks, she came to realize that “terrorism and evil does not come in any one religion or any one nationality.”
“Terrorism and evil are just amongst us in human beings so this is where unity comes in,” she said. “If we can just come together in ordinary times, we can overcome and we can beat evil.”
Joshi said it’s important to remember the terrorists failed to dismantle the freedoms of the U.S.
“We have to remember that we rallied. We have to remember what that moment meant for us. Here in Edison, we choose to remember every single year through this ceremony,” he said.
And while “there are individuals who live in that hateful mindset that choose to challenge us,” Joshi said the “rally and support” shown after the terrorist attacks has to be shown on a daily basis.
“We have the ability to do it,” he said. “That’s what makes us who we are.”
During the ceremony, members of the Edison High School choir sang the National Anthem, Casey Decker, a member of the John P. Stevens High School Chamber Ensemble sang “America the Beautiful; Boy Scout Troop 66 led the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance; Cantor Emily Simkin of Temple Emanu-El Edison led the invocation and benediction; Deputy Fire Chief Andy Toth led the Fireman’s Prayer and Deputy Police Chief Robert J. Dudash Jr. led the Policeman’s Prayer.
The Edison Police and Edison Fire honor guards stood in honor, Bob Magnella played “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes and Edison Firefighter Gavin Kasperski played “Taps” on the trumpet.
Dignitaries also included Middlesex County Commissioner Charles Tomaro and State Sen. Patrick Diegnan (D-18).