With bagpipers from the New Jersey United Pipe Band playing the Marine Corps theme and "Amazing Grace," the North Bergen Board of Education honored the memories of two North Bergen High School graduates who went on to become Port Authority police officers and lost their lives in the World Trade Center tragedy on Sept. 11.
One of them, Robert Cirri, was living with his family in West New York at the time of his death.
Tuesday, in a poignant and moving ceremony attended by 250 people and broadcasted through closed circuit to all the students of the high school, the Board of Education unveiled a memorial in honor of Cirri (Class of 1980) and Christopher Amoroso (Class of 1990), both of whom perished while on duty as PA cops two months ago.
The board had purchased a cement memorial headstone, and they placed it at the foot of the flagpole in the front of North Bergen High School to serve as a constant reminder of the horrific events of that fateful day and to remember the alumni of the school who bravely lost their lives.
"They gave the greatest gift of all," said Superintendent of Schools Peter Fischbach in his address to the audience. "They gave their lives so that so many others could live. We gathered today to honor the two North Bergen High School graduates who lost their lives. On that day of infamy, they were called upon to serve, and unselfishly, they went in to the Twin Towers to save the lives of those who were trapped. In doing so, they lost their lives."
Added Fischbach, "It's too much of a tragedy to comprehend. The sorrow goes beyond words. The grief will never be able to be expressed with the emptiness left behind."
Fischbach said that the memorial will serve as a constant reminder of the bravery shown by both Amoroso and Cirri.
"Everyone can now point to what they did, to hold up their lives as models to follow," Fischbach said. "There is sorrow in their passing, but they died so that others would not die in vain. They will be kept alive in our hearts, in our spirits, in our memory. This memorial proclaims lives that were worthy of note, with respect and honor."
Rev. Harold Wilcomes provided both the invocation and the benediction for the service, which lasted about an hour and halted traffic along Kennedy Boulevard.
Mayor Nicholas Sacco, who is also the assistant superintendent of schools for the district, officially dedicated the memorial, which read: "In memory of the North Bergen High School graduates who perished in the line of duty on September 11, 2001, and dedicated to all those individuals who suffered as a result of the attack on America's freedom."
"There are no words to express our grief," Sacco said to the members of the Amoroso and Cirri families.
Monica Coyle, the president of the North Bergen Federation of Teachers, also announced that a contribution was going to be made to the Amoroso and Cirri families on behalf of the fundraiser that the NBFT held.
"On behalf of all the faculty, both Chris and Robert will remain in the memory to all who taught them," Coyle said. "They remain forever as members of the North Bergen High School family."
Amoroso's family lives in Staten Island, and Cirri's family lives in West New York.
Christopher Amoroso's father, Charlie, was moved by the ceremony and the presentation.
"It was definitely very nice of the Board of Education to remember Chris this way," Amoroso said. "It says a lot for them that they wanted to keep their memory alive and remember the time they spent here at North Bergen High School. This really helps to ease the pain and let's us know that they will always be here."
Several members of the Amoroso family were on hand for the ceremony, including his brothers and sisters, his grandmother and several aunts and close relatives.
Cirri's son, Robert Cirri, Jr. is a 17-year-old senior at St. Joseph of the Palisades High School. Although he is still having a tough time coming to grips with the tragedy - the family just held a memorial service two weeks ago - the younger Cirri was glad that the memorial will keep his father's name alive.
"I think it's nice for everyone who passes by, that they can stop and see it," Cirri said. "It shows that my dad was all about helping people first, in whatever he did. Although I don't think the pain will ever go away, this was a nice tribute."
The younger Cirri pointed out that his father's entire life was dedicated to public service. In addition to his time with the Port Authority police, Robert Cirri was also an emergency medical technician and a long-time member of the Weehawken Volunteer First Aid Squad.
"It wasn't just Sept. 11," Cirri said. "It was his whole life. Because of that, his memory will always be around Hudson County and throughout New Jersey, with everyone that knew him."
Cirri said that the Port Authority police plan to name a training program at their police academy in his father's honor as well. Although the younger Cirri plans on attending college after graduation from St. Joseph in June, he is thinking about pursuing a life in public service, just like his father.
Jessica Cirri is a 13-year-old eighth grader at P.S. 1 in West New York.
"I just wanted people to know that he was a great father, a loving guy," Jessica Cirri said. "I miss just talking to him and being with him. It's been tough on all of us, but this was a nice way to remember my dad."