‘Never forget’

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Lawrence Township holds its annual 9/11 memorial service

Christina Vincent had two things on her mind on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001 – to help her daughter get ready for school, and to get ready for her day shift as a Lawrence Township EMT (emergency medical technician) and paramedic.

An exhausted Vincent had just completed three night shifts in a row as an EMT and paramedic, and she was gearing up to start the first of her two day shifts. Sleep was 12 hours away.

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“When I pulled into the parking lot to start my day shift tour, my partner MaryAnn was already outside with our ambulance running,” said Vincent, who was the keynote speaker at Lawrence Township’s annual 9/11 memorial service.

As they were getting ready to take a call, her partner told her that planes had crashed into the World Trade Center’s twin towers in New York City, said Vincent, who is now the chief of the Lawrence Township EMS.

Vincent recalled telling her partner that it was probably just a small, twin-engine plane. But when they returned to the EMS headquarters and turned on the news, they saw American Airlines Flight 11 crash into the North Tower.

They continued to watch the live updates on television, watching helplessly as the two towers collapsed. When the second tower fell, “the immediate gut-wrenching reality set in,” Vincent said.

“It had only been three hours since my only thought was to get through another routine day shift so I could go home to my family and sleep,” she said.

“In the blink of an eye, there were now hundreds of emergency personnel and thousands of civilians perishing before our eyes who would never again have that privilege (to go home). There was nothing we could do about it.”

Vincent said her thoughts raced to the first responders in New York City – police officers, firefighters, EMTs paramedics – when they received the initial call for an airplane crashing into the North Tower.

“A half cup of coffee left on the crew room table, never to be finished. The table conversations with co-workers that had started at the beginning of the shift. Older members picking on the rookies, or the rookies picking on them,” she said.

“Within two hours, they were all gone,” she said.

Vincent told the attendees that “we gather here at this solemn 9/11 memorial to remember and reflect upon one of the darkest days in our nation’s history. It has been 22 years since our world was forever changed, but let the memories and lessons of Sept. 11, 2001 remain etched in our hearts and minds forever.

“Americans came together in the aftermath of 9/11 in a demonstration of unity and solidarity, which must never be forgotten. In the face of unspeakable horror, they rose above their differences and stood united as one people.

“The spirit of unity must never be forgotten. The families and communities that were devastated by profound loss and who found the strength to rebuild and carry on also must not be forgotten,” she said.

Vincent called on the attendees to never forget the passengers who sat on the doomed airplanes in terror, and the workers in the buildings who never saw it coming.

The firefighters, police officers and EMS personnel who died, and the search-and-rescue teams who looked for survivors and victims, should never be forgotten, she said.

“In closing, let us remember that while the scars of 9/11 may never fully heal, they serve as a reminder of our shared humanity, our capacity to endure and our determination to stand up against evil,” Vincent said.

Then, after a moment of silence, first responders led by Police Chief Christopher Longo placed four wreaths on stands at the entrance to the Lawrence Township 9/11 Memorial Park – one for each of the sites where the terrorists crashed four jets.

Police Chief Christopher Longo and three first responders are carrying the wreaths. PHOTO BY LEA KAHN/STAFF
From left to right, Chief Christopher Longo, Vincent and Jack Oakley, the municipal emergency management coordinator. PHOTO BY LEA KAHN/STAFF

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