Eleven years later, on a Tuesday just like the day of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks – a bright sunny morning with not a cloud in the sky – close to 200 people gathered at a memorial at the Secaucus Public Library to mark the anniversary of the tragedy.
Taps played in the background as Mayor Michael Gonnelli read off the names of the six people the town lost during the attack on the World Trade Center. Those individuals were: Arlene Babakitis, Richard Cudina, Nancy Perez, Kenneth Simon, Steven Strobert, and Michael Tanner.
Family members, residents, clergy, and local officials looked on solemnly. Members of the police and fire departments, armed forces, Knights of Columbus, Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion, and the Boy Scouts were all present at the ceremony and service.
“We need to stand together not only as a community but as a nation.” – Mayor Michael Gonnelli
“We stand strong,” said Gonnelli. “Through this ceremony let us resolve to honor the memory of our loved ones…We need to stand together not only as a community but as a nation.”
“That day changed all of our lives,” said Assemblyman Vincent Prieto. “It is incredible that we have come such a long way but one thing we can’t do is forget.”
The audience joined the members of the community’s performance group CAST in singing God Bless America. Clergy members read prayers and the ceremony concluded with bagpipes.
“We are never going to forget,” said survivor Phyllis Colon. Colon had a hard time attending the event because she said it brings back the memory of that day. She survived the attacks along with fellow Secaucus survivor Linda Raisch-Lopez. Colon worked at the Port Authority with fellow residents Arlene Babakitis and Nancy Perez, who both didn’t make it out of the World Trade Center.
“Secaucus is a great town,” she noted. “They just do a wonderful job.”
“It means an awful lot,” said Lucy Borkowski about the memorial ceremony.
“It is great that the community comes together.” Borkowski has attended the Sept. 11 ceremony every year. She had a husband in the army and was thankful that her husband came home safe from war. She said she felt sorry for those that suffered a loss.
The biographies of those individuals whose lives were lost on 9/11 and either lived or grew up in Secaucus are as follows:
Arlene Babakitis worked on the 64th floor of the North Tower for the Port Authority. She was 47 years old and the loving mother of two sons, Vincent and Kevin. Babakitis was born and raised on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. She has two sisters, Karen Reoch and Evelyn L. Pettigano.
Richard Cudina was on the 105th floor of the North Tower working as a broker with Cantor Fitzgerald when the airplane struck the building. He was 46 years old. He and his wife Georgia lived in Harmon Cove for a number of years before moving to Glen Gardner. He grew up in Cliffside Park, and is the third of four sons of Anthony and Joy Cudina.
Nancy Perez worked on the 64th floor of the North Tower as a supervisor for the Port Authority. She was 36 years old at the time of the attacks and had just moved to Secaucus from Union City. She is one of three sisters. Her family moved to Hudson County after fleeing Cuba in 1970.
Kenneth Simon was a 34-year-old equities trader for Cantor Fitzgerald in the North Tower. He was married to Karen and had a 4-month-old daughter, Maya, at the time of the attack. He was one of four children of Arthur and Susan Simon. His father worked several floors below him on the 93rd floor and also perished on that tragic day.
Steven Strobert grew up in Secaucus and was the son of a former Secaucus Board of Education member. He was 33 and worked on the 105th floor of the North Tower as a bond trader for Cantor Fitzgerald at the time of the attacks. Strobert, his wife Tara, and son Frankie lived in Ridgewood.
Michael Tanner was an investment officer and trader for the securities firm Cantor Fitzgerald. He was 44 years old, husband to Michele, and father to Sasha and Gianna. Tanner was the oldest of five children.
Adriana Rambay Fernández may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.