EAST BRUNSWICK – To commemorate the 21st anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks, a candlelight vigil was held in memory for the thousands that perished, which included eight East Brunswick residents.
Outside the East Brunswick Municipal Complex, residents gathered under canopies at the 9/11 Monument to remember the tragic events that occurred in New York City, Washington D.C. and Pennsylvania.
The attack 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.
In remembrance of the eight residents lost, several East Brunswick Township Council members read the following names aloud: Siew-Nya Ang, Susan Blair, Paul W. Innella, Hweidar Jian, Alan David Klienberg, Stuart Louis, Suzanne Passaro, and Kenneth W. Van Auken.
Despite the rain, a sizeable crowd was in attendance as Mayor Brad Cohen shared remarks to honor the victims. Cohen focused on the importance of preserving the legacy of 9/11 for future generations. He explained that if the significance and history of that tragedy is forgotten, then so too are the lessons and stories of that day.
“When we think about the legacy of this day, we need to think about what is the message. What is the measure of hope and courage, and resiliency that can be applied to those who are living today who didn’t live during 9/11.
“How is this day going to be something that has meaning for them? Because that’s how you preserve a legacy. We won’t be around forever. So for them to continue to recognize the importance and the attack on democracy that took place 21 years ago, we need to be certain that our youth understands the meaning of what happened …” Cohen said.
To further persevere that legacy, the township held an essay writing contest for students in grades 9-12. The prompt asked students to reflect on the incident and share what valuable life lessons could be applied to their everyday lives and their generation.
The three winners shared the contents of their essays with those in attendance. Although they didn’t experience or witness the attacks, they each explained how 9/11 would never be forgotten.
Eleventh grader Kenneth Chan expressed his hope for nationwide unity amidst the country’s social disharmony and divided political discourse.
He related recent school shootings, hate crimes, and other violent incidents as evolved forms of the same evil that existed before his generation. Chan explained how 9/11 served as an example of how to respond to adversity with unity.
“I may not have been born when it happened. But I am proud to carry on that legacy, never to forget,” he said. “That same spirit of courage and unity that washed over America the days after 9/11 has been passed down to us.
“Just as we acted decisively in the days after 9/11, young people are acting decisively in the face of this crisis … Even though evil tried to tear us apart, these attacks brought us together in the same way the attacks on 9/11 united us.”
At the conclusion of the ceremony, Cohen urged those in attendance to cherish the gift of life.
“I think there’s a message that comes out of 9/11. It’s that we need to look at each day as something precious and as a gift. And figure out how we’re going to use that gift to do something better in this world, to make some meaning of your life,” he said.