As the sounds of the bell rang five times from outside Princeton First Aid & Rescue Squad’s building, people remembered groups of Americans who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 and those who are suffering in the aftermath from related illnesses.
The Princeton 9/11 Memorial Committee hosted the annual memorial ceremony, which took place at the squad’s headquarters on Sept. 11.
This year marked 22 years since the terrorist attacks that changed the United States and families nationwide.
“Today is a day everyone should take a moment to reflect. A lot of people are not able to share their time together,” said William Shields, chair of the Princeton 9/11 Memorial Committee.
“Here is a great chance to get together and remember those people and think about them. Take a half hour, reflect wherever you are, sometime during this day you should stop and reflect and appreciate what you have.”
The First Aid & Rescue Squad headquarters is the site of a Sept. 11 monument on 2 Mount Lucas Road in Princeton.
Lex Kochmann, a member of Princeton Affordable Housing, has a personal connection to 9/11. Her husband worked in World Trade Center 7. He was crossing West Street when the first plane hit.
“We were lucky enough that he was late to work that day, but he saw all the tragedy happening around him. He got one of the last ferries to New Jersey before the South Tower fell,” she said.
“He can’t be here at this ceremony, because it is just too hard for him with everything that he saw. I was lucky that my husband came home, but I want people to take away from today that there were so many families whose loved ones did not come home.”
Kochmann said it is important for people to never forget the day and remember that there were children and adults lost on 9/11.
Members of Community Options Inc., a Princeton base nationwide organization providing support services for people with disabilities, presented a floral arrangement for the Sept. 11 monument during the remembrance ceremony.
At the center of the memorial is a steel beam from the World Trade Center site that is more than eight feet in length.
“It’s not my steel, it’s the people’s steel,” Shields said of the monument.
Ken Stoveken, a Hopewell firefighter and member New Jersey Chapter 22 of Red Knights International Firefighter Motorcycle Club, and David Johnson, from Kingston, who is also a firefighter and member of the Red Knights were two of many in attendance for the ceremony.
“We come every year to remember the people who perished that day in the 9/11 attacks, and we find it important to keep it up and alive for the community,” Stoveken said.
The club helped escort the steel beam from New York to Princeton.
“My memory today is of the lost. They all sacrificed a great deal, and they will always be in my heart,” Johnson said.
They both urged that people still remember those who have ongoing medical issues from that day and support wherever people can.
“To see so many people out here and stand in remembrance and support of emergency services I hope people keep volunteering to help,” Johnson added. “It is badly needed more so than ever, and I hope they do join and help us.”
A large plaque next to the steel beam tells the history of the day and presents information for the public on the four hijacked flights – American Airlines Flight 11, United Airlines Flight 175, American Airlines Flight 77, and United Airlines Flight 93.
There is a compass plaque that shows where the location of the memorial is in miles and relation to three plane crash sites the World Trade Center in New York, Shanksville in Pennsylvania, and the Pentagon.
“I think it is important that every year at least and to me every day think about 9/11,” Mayor Mark Freda said. “It is important to remember and not let that memory fade.”
“Having been in the city that day and seeing and experiencing everything firsthand it is good that we are able to do something here in our own community and there are a number of people from our community affected by that day directly and indirectly.”
Bag piper Doug Conners played Amazing Grace, some present could be seen wiping away tears as they honored and remember people lost and the families that were impacted from losing a loved one on 9/11 and after.
A memory book was available for people in attendance at the ceremony to write their comments and thoughts on the day, or the name of someone they know who had been lost to the terrorist attacks on that day and/or in the aftermath of working on the World Trade Center area site.
After they wrote in the book it was closed and will not be brought out again until the 2024 memorial ceremony.