On a clear and sunny Saturday afternoon, The Newburgh Armory Unity Center unveiled its new memorial to mark the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
The memorial, an actual piece of rubble with steel from one of the towers that fell that day, was anonymously donated to the Armory in 2011. After many years of planning, the Amory believed that it was time to unveil for all to see and remember.
As the children from the Armory classes started to make their way out the doors, William Kaplan was at the doors, stopping the children and encouraging them to attend the memorial service.
Kaplan was joined by City of Newburgh Police Chief Anthony Geraci, City of Newburgh Fire Chief Francis Spinelli, Thomas Weddell of the Armory Board of Trustees, Pastor Nelson McAllister of Calvary Full Gospel Family Church and other guests to commemorate the occasion. Newburgh Armory Director of Operations Max Cuacuas translated for the Spanish speakers in the audience at the event.
During the course of the service, community leaders and representatives spoke in remembrance of the sacrifice of the first responders and the countless lives that were lost and changed on that day.
Following the remarks, Kaplan made his way over to the memorial, draped in a dark blue cover, and revealed the memorial for all to see.
The next part of the ceremony would be the reading of the names of the first responders from Orange County that died. Geraci and Spinelli were then invited to come to the podium to read off the names.
Geraci wanted to thank all those who were in attendance, especially the young people, and shared that he had served as an officer in the city and was at Ground Zero. Geraci also shared that he has kept a piece of rubble from one of the towers with him and holding the piece and reading these names reminds him of their sacrifice.
Geraci also recognized retired New York City Police Officer Gregory Anderson, who was in attendance and was also invited to read off the names. Between the three gentlemen, a total of 45 names were read, listing the departments and towns that they were from.
At the conclusion of the ceremony, guests were encouraged to come and place their hands on the memorial to capture the sense of the event that happened so long ago.
Anderson, who was a first responder to the attacks that day, lost eight of his co-workers in the battle to keep the city and its inhabitants safe. Every year is a remembrance of sacrifice for Anderson.
“I continue to try to process it every year annually,” Anderson said. “I just pray that God will, will guide me through.”
For the many children that were in the crowd and that will never know what happened that day, Anderson is hopeful for the future to come.
“America is an exceptional place and it requires exceptional people to stay on that course,” Anderson said. “What I see in the young people is a spark in their eye when they hear about the service that so many of our fallen comrades have sacrificed their lives for.”