Communities across the country honored those lost and still suffering from the 9/11 terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people 21 years ago on Sept. 11.
On Sept. 11, Americans remembered the attacks that killed people in New York, Shanksville, Pa. and Washington D.C. 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.
They honored the civilians and first responders who died that day, as well as the survivors, who are struggling and/or have struggled in the aftermath from 9/11 diseases attributed to responding and recovery efforts at the World Trade Center site.
“I hope people remember all of the sacrifices of the families, the firefighters, police and the ordinary people and we should never forget. I know there were families here locally in Princeton, who lost loved ones,” Princeton resident Cynthia Clausen said.
“We need to always remember and never forget those who gave, and it is important to keep going.”
In Princeton, the annual memorial service ceremony took place at the Princeton First Aid & Rescue Squad headquarters and was hosted by the Princeton 9/11 Memorial Committee.
“I think for those of us who may not have lost someone in our immediate family or someone we know on Sept. 11 need to be reminded of the effort that is made on behalf of all of us every day by first responders and people who have made the choice to go in when people either won’t, are afraid to or not obligated to,” Councilman Leighton Newlin said.
Newlin said he gives serious acknowledgement to the level of volunteerism in the ranks of Princeton’s first responders.
“I think it is not only a good time to recognize those who have given their lives, but those who continue to give their lives to others today,” he said.
The First Aid & Rescue Squad headquarters is the site of a Sept. 11 monument that had been unveiled in 2021 on 2 Mount Lucas Road in Princeton.
“Just being able to have the monument is incredible. The most important thing is that here is a place in town, whether you live in Princeton or are just driving through, where you can stop and remember,” Mayor Mark Freda said.
The centerpiece of the memorial is a steel beam from the World Trade Center site that is more than eight feet in length.
“It is very appropriate it is at the First Aid Squad. The firehouse is a half a block away, and the police station is right across the street,” Freda said. “All of the emergency services are right here, and the memorial is right in the middle of all of that.”
There is a large plaque next to the steel beam that tells the history of the day and provides information on the four hijacked flights – American Airlines Flight 11, United Airlines Flight 175, American Airlines Flight 77, and United Airlines Flight 93.
Another plaque consists of a compass, which shows where the location of the memorial is in relation to three plane crash sites the World Trade Center in New York, Shanksville in Pennsylvania, and the Pentagon, while also providing the miles from the memorial location to each of the three sites.
“I hope people keep in their minds the sacrifices that all these individuals made that day. I hope this reminds our children of what is possible if you leave your guard down,” said Ken Stoveken of the Hopewell Fire Department and New Jersey Chapter 22 of Red Knights Firefighter Motorcycle Club. “We need to be diligent and have people volunteer and do what they can for their communities.”
A memory book was available for those in attendance at the ceremony to write the name of a family member or friend that had been lost to the terrorist attacks on that day, in the aftermath of working on the World Trade Center area site, or to write a special thought.
“The whole purpose of this memorial service ceremony is to keep us focused. This day will never be gone from our memories, and I hope what I am doing here is bringing the Princeton community together and joining those families who lost loved ones on that day,” said William Shields, chair of the Princeton 9/11 Memorial Committee.
He added people are suffering from 9/11 illnesses every day.
“The death toll is growing more and more. We need to make sure that we are there to support these people,” Shields said. “This ceremony is the least I can do to make sure this day is never forgotten. People were touched by this day across the world.
“Having ceremonies like today draw us together, help us build from each other, and learn from one another.”