Each year, when people gather at the Jersey City memorial to the victims of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, something is slightly different. Some years, it’s the weather; other years, it’s the mood. What remains the same is the commitment of attendees to not forget.
Phil Murphy, Democratic candidate for governor, came to the Sept. 11 ceremony this year and spoke about his four children, three of whom were under 5 at the time, one of whom had not yet been born.
“They have grown up with this as a [past] memory,” he said. “Sixteen years, and this continues to beat centrally in our lives.”
If anything positive came out of the event, it the concept of respect and remembrance of what it means to be American.
“This can never be abstract,” he said.
He said that while Americans observe events such as Pearl Harbor, Memorial Day, and the Fourth of July, “This is different. We are living with the survivors of the victims. We knew them. They were part of our lives.”
Mayor Steven Fulop called this “a good day to reflect, on how far we’ve come and the changes due to the impact of 9/11.
He pointed out that the spot at the foot of Grand Street served as a triage site for the victims as they were ferried over the river from the New York City side.
“It is important for us to remember [the events], because it is the only way to improve this country,” he said.
The annual “Reflections” service is held each year in this same spot where a piece of the steel from the fallen World Trade Center Twin Towers sits as a constant reminder of that day.
Jersey City lost 37 residents in that attack, the names of whom were read off to the tolling of a bell.
Fulop and others tossed a wreath into the water as singers crooned “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” and ironically, the wreath floated along the water to Grundy Pier upriver — a place at which President Abraham Lincoln stopped, both as a candidate for president and later after his inauguration, on the eve of the American Civil War.
The wreath passed beneath the pier unnoticed by people standing or exercising on it, and then continued on, caught in the eddies of the unpredictable Hudson River’s currents.
Councilman Richard Boggiano, a retired police detective, recalled meeting someone on 9/11 who claimed to be an FBI agent. This person simply wanted to help the victims.
“I wonder to this day, was it actually an angel?” Boggiano said. “Because the way he came in, nobody saw him come inside and nobody saw him leave. Think about that. To me it’s a miracle and it’s been bothering me for 16 years.”
With a flag perched atop two fire ladders over Grand Street, leading to the rusted steel beams that make up Jersey City’s monument to the victims of 9/11, bagpipe music echoed between the buildings as police, fire, and other public safety officials saluted and presented colors, followed by a rendition of John Lennon’s song “Imagine.”
Joe Napolitano Sr. gave an introduction and welcome to the surprisingly large turnout, as well as to the parade of commuters that paused to watch and listen.
The twisted beams salvaged from the ruins of the former World Trade Center stood as the monument for the city, as symbolized that “America was twisted and mangled” – according to Gary Nye, co-chairman of the 9/11 Committee of Jersey City, who has told this tale each year. “But like this piece of steel, we remain strong.”
The monument is made up of rusted beams from the towers that had fallen, each from a different part of the structure, all together forming the shape of the letter A, which stands for America.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.