On Saturday the Highland Hose Company hosted a 20th Anniversary ceremony to honor those who were lost in the terrorist attacks on that fateful September day. This year the hose company called attention to the loss of 412 First Responders: 343 firefighters, 60 Port Authority and NYC Police, 8 EMS personnel and 1 member of the Fire Patrol.
Fred DeMaio delivered the invocation, noting that the memories and emotions of that day are still unsettling.
“Heavenly father we pray your blessings on our little corner of the world that we call Highland. We pray your continued comfort and blessing upon the families of all who were lost on September 11, 2001 and since then...and finally Lord we thank you for the opportunity to live in this great country filled with abundance, opportunity and a hope for the future. In your name we pray, Amen.” A moment of silence followed.
The Pledge of Allegiance was followed by the singing of the National Anthem by Alan Spaulding as white doves were simultaneously released.
Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan said the weather on Saturday was very similar to that September day in 2001. He said the phrase “never forget” is often emphasized on days of remembrance.
“Nearly 3,000 innocent lives were lost on that day and as a parent now I can’t even imagine the feelings of the parents, the spouses, the co-workers, siblings, the families and the friends of those who lost their loved ones,” he said. “But on one of the darkest days in our country’s history I think we saw the best of our country step forward. In that moment of common grief we found common cause and we found a sense of community and we saw that spirit of selflessness and all working toward something greater. I just appreciate the opportunity of being here with you all to remember that and to feel that spirit:
America the Beautiful, with lyrics by Katherine Lee Bates and music by Samuel A. Ward, was sung by Jessica Avampato.
NYS Assemblyman Jonathan Jacobson [NY104] said, “The outpouring of support of the community for this every year is something that we all should be proud of and should all remember why we’re here,” he said.
Jacobson recalled the unity in the country that happened after 9/11.
“It was something that I’ve never experienced before, perhaps when I was young when President Kennedy was shot, that was the thing that came closest, but certainly I haven’t experienced anything like that since then but we did have one label, that we were all Americans.”
Lloyd Supervisor Fred Pizzuto said this year the Fire Department held a brick fundraiser where the names of all 412 first responders were engraved on bricks and placed around the steel artifact that was once part of the twin towers.
Those who donated received a certificate with the name of the first responder who name is on the brick that they purchased. Pizzuto received the name of Dennis M. Carey FDNY Hazmat 1, a 20 year veteran firefighter, whose body was found on September 30 in a stairwell in Tower One where he and his chief were trapped as they were rescuing survivors.
“For me 911 now becomes Dennis M. Carey. He, like my local police and fire department, now has a face. Dennis will always be in my prayers and in my heart.”
Police Chief James Janso said September 11, 2001 was one of the worst days in our history when acts of terror were committed on American soil.
“The attacks of September were intended to break our spirit but in the weeks and months after the attacks America emerged stronger and more unified,” he said. “A feeling of patriotism, a renewed devotion to the principles of political, economic and religious freedoms, the rule of law and respect for human life was unparalleled.
Today, 20 years later, we should never forget those tragic events and those who lost their lives and we should never forget how those events unified us as one nation regardless of race, color, creed, gender and political party...As you live your life and enjoy the breath you take today and tonight and before you go to sleep in preparation for your life tomorrow, kiss the ones you love, hug them a little tighter and never, ever take one second of your life for granted.”
Fire Chief Peter Miller began by honoring a special visitor, Capt. LeRoy O’Neill, Ladder 158 FDNY, New York. He joined the fire department in 1973 and retired in 2002, “and we’re honored to have him here with us.” He reminded everyone that not only are we honoring the 412 First Responders but also many more who became ill years after 9/11 and died due to their working on the “pile” of the collapsed towers in New York City.
“Nothing we can say or we can do can replace the loss so many have endured on 9/11. We have to move forward, supporting the ideals of our nation formulated by the founding fathers and find a way to be unified and be productive as a civilized society, as we were in the days and months after the 9/11 attacks.”
Members of the brick committee unveiled the new bricks that surround the 9/11 artifact. Stephen DiLorenzo said while doing research for the project they discovered entire ladder companies of 14 to 16 men and engine companies and even second shifts who had all perished.
“It was emotional for us, we went over the names many, many times to make sure the spellings were correct. It was very difficult,” he said, adding a thank you to Mike Garone who volunteered to lay the new engraved bricks.
The department donated a check for $19,350 to Michael and Dawn Carroll, who are volunteers and advocates for the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation. The funds are used to assist families who have lost a beloved firefighter move on and heal as best they can.
“This check is going to help us tremendously in getting programs together and getting them out there to the Highland Fire Department and any fire department that wants them. It’s free and we’ll come in and teach the programs for families,” Mike said. “Thank you to the Highland Fire Department for doing this.”
A 21 gun salute was done by members of the American Legion Post #193, followed by the Ringing of the Bell by Chief Miller assisted by James Anzalone, a custom that honors a departed firefighter’s memory, life, service and signifies that their service and assignments are now complete.
“It is with regret, reverence and honor that we acknowledge the passing of 343 FDNY firefighters who died on 9/11 and the 254 additional members of the FDNY who have died since 9/11 due to illness contracted while working on the World Trade Center pile.”
Taps was played in a call and response manner by Joseph Avampato and Pete Maroldt, members of Buglers Across America. Jessica Avampato sang God Bless America by Irving Berlin and Fred DeMaio offered a final benediction, urging everyone to share peace and love with their neighbors, friends and families, closing a solemn ceremony that marked the 20th anniversary of September 11, 2001.