Sounds of bagpipes playing “Amazing Grace” echoed. It was a solemn Tuesday morning as Essex County held its 16th annual 9/11 commemoration.
New Jersey’s two U.S. senators were there at the county’s 9/11 memorial, along with a host of officials.
“We remember the nearly 3,000 lives lost. Seven hundred New Jerseyans. Sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, cousins and friends,” said Sen. Bob Menendez.
Never forget, urged Menendez and Sen. Cory Booker.
“We will never forget with every fiber of our being, with all the strength of our spirit, we will never forget those who lost their lives, we will never forget the bravery and heroism of all the first responders,” said Booker.
Maria DeRosa lost her sister in the terrorist attack.
“She worked for First Union Bank on the forty-seventh floor of the North Tower. Four people were lost from her office. Although there is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about my sister, it is very important for me to come here every year and mark this day as a a day of remembrance,” said DeRosa.
A Port Authority employee who worked on the twenty-first floor and got out said she misses her colleagues who didn’t make it.
“Upon reflection I have learned that each and every one of us is capable of empathy. We all experienced it during 9/11. Over the last two weeks, with the surge of Harvey and Irma, we have been reminded that empathy is deep within each of us,” said Elisa Charters.
There was praise for the first responders and advice to those who aspire to be one.
“There may be a time when you have to go into a place and you may not come out. If you like to step away, step out now. No shame, no ridicule, nothing. No one ever steps away,” said Essex County Sheriff Armando Fontoura.
There were soothing words on a cool September morning and vows to eradicate the ideology that drives terrorism.
“It is not a religion, but the twisting of a religion that causes these issues,” said Congressman Donald Payne Jr.
“The only thing we have is each other. Any time there’s a tragedy anywhere, Texas, Florida, we all come together as one,” said Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo.
Essex County lost 57 residents on 9/11. It has built a beautiful hilltop memorial to those other American victims. One imagines people will be visiting the location on Sept. 11 for years to come.