“Today was a remarkably brilliant day, just as it was 11 years ago, an absolutely stunningly beautiful morning and, as we all know, in a few short moments, it turned into one of the most horrific scenes imaginable,” said Mayor Mark Smith in an address before several hundred people who had gathered at dusk near the foot of Zorbas Tsereteli’s 100-foot tall creation, “To the Struggle Against World Terrorism,” for an interfaith service.
As brilliant a day as it was, the dusk was more so with a scalding red sunset that lit the whole western sky into a massive blaze of flame, a fire that was clearly reflected on the windows of the New York City skyline just across New York Harbor from where the crowd was gathered.
The American flag, positioned at half mast, caught glimpses of these fading beams, too, flapping slowly over the heads of the seated people as the mayor and ministers spoke.
“Just a few short feet from here, I remember gathering with the members of the Bayonne police, fire department, emergency medical technicians, administrators, physicians and nurses to set up a triage to receive the survivors from the World Trade Center. As we all know, that was not to be. Those who were able to escape did so, and those who could not perished.”
Smith said a news report 11 years later had upset his secretary when he got into the office earlier in the day.
“They [the newscasters] interviewed someone who did not understand the significance of this day,” Smith said, then quoted Hawthorne: “‘Times flies over us, but leaves its shadow behind.’ So here we are 11 years later, in the shadow of that horrific day. We gather because it is incumbent on us to never forget, to never forget the loss, to never forget the suffering, to never forget the sacrifice… It is vitally important to make sure the young understand what transpired that day, that they recognize the loss and sacrifice of so many, that they recognize that America came together, that Bayonne came together, and did some remarkable things on such a terrible, terrible moment.”
“As long as we live, they will live, too, they area apart us as we remember them.” – Rabbi Clifford Miller
After a long moment of silence led by religious leaders, the community stood around a piece of rusted steel – one of the girders from the fallen Twin Towers. The Reverend Dorothy A. Patterson of the Wallace Temple AME Zion Church read off the names of those who had perished not only in the 2011 attacks, but also in the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center, as well as the two Bayonne residents who were lost the jet that crashed in Pennsylvania: William J. Macko, Alysia Basmajian, Ana M. Centeno, John A. Cooper, Colleen Ann Deloughery, Ramzi A. Doany, John Roger Fisher, Orasri Liangthanasarn, Gavin McMahon, Steven P. Morello, Kenneth Joseph Tarantino, Patricia Cushing, and Jane Folger.
“Your presence here speaks to the fact that we have not and will not forget our family and friends and those we never knew who lost their lives 11 years ago,” Patterson said. “This speaks to our empathy for the people who were wounded in countless ways. It speaks to our attitude not to policy making, but to the local firms and individuals, especially to the first responders, the fire, police, EMTs and building safety professionals, the ordinary people like you and me who put service before themselves. This is testimony to the awesomeness of God, who put ordinary people in an ordinary place under extreme and dangerous situations so we might further comprehend that we are capable of doing extraordinary acts of good.”
After asking everyone to look around at the people to either side, in front or back of them, Patterson said, “It is people like us who can change the world. We have the power to eradicate hate, and let love abound, and in the words of Jimi Hendrix: ‘When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.’”
Then religious leader after religious leader stood up to pray and contemplate the events that so shook the world on Sept. 11, 2001, trying to find something positive in what to most would be the most traumatic moments of their lives.
Father Joseph Barbone of Our Lady of the Assumption Church spoke of “the salt of the earth” and its loss and being trampled underfoot, while Rabbi Gordon Gladstone of Temple Beth Am spoke of ashes and stone, and how out of things new life emerged with the hope that the legacy of 9/11 will be “of our coming together rather than moving apart.”
Rabbi Clifford Miller of Temple Emanu-El said those who perished in the terrorist attacks live on in those who gather in ceremonies such as this.
“As long as we live, they will live, too, they area apart us as we remember them,” Miller said.
The Rev. Rose Cohen Hassan of Calvary Episcopal Church and Trinity Parish said seeing the lights in the sky the Friday before the Sept. 11 memorial surprised her. But thinking about it made her realize that the two towers of light “extending their arms into the sky” and it meant something different to her now than when she first saw them years ago.
“I realized those beams of light no longer represented loss to me,” she said. “They represented hope, hope that just as the darkness in the sky around the old World Trade Center is filled with light, the darkness that we felt and feel is healed; hope that the empty space where the World Trade Center One and Two were is now filled, that emptiness inside of us is also filled; hope that just as the names of those who died that day have been inscribed in the marble of this monument that their memories are inscribed in our hearts so that we will remember the incredible bravery and selflessness that happened that day.”