By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
“Thank you, Bay Ridge. You never forget,” Deputy Fire Chief James Riches told a crowd of nearly 1,000 people who came to the 69th Street pier for a Sept. 11 remembrance ceremony.
Riches, who lost his son firefighter Jimmy Riches, in the terror attack on the World Trade Center 11 years ago, said he was gratified by the large numbers of people in attendance at the Bay Ridge ceremony. “This turnout warms my heart,” he said.
Across New York Harbor, the skyline of lower Manhattan was visible to those standing on the pier. Residents attending the ceremony were marveling at the sight of the Freedom Tower, lit up in glistening red, white, and blue lights, as well as the two beams of light reaching into the sky from the spots where the Twin Towers once stood. Turning around to look toward the Freedom Tower, state Sen. Marty Golden (R-Bay Ridge) said it is a symbol of the country’s and the city’s resilience. “With faith and hope, we have moved forward,” he said.
Riches was the guest speaker at the remembrance, organized by Golden as a tribute to the victims. Thirty-two people from Bay Ridge, including many firefighters and young people working in financial firms located in the Twin Towers, were killed in the attack.
“Everyone here tonight shares our commitment to never forget. We made that commitment on that Tuesday morning, 11 years ago,” Golden said. “We are here to stand tall with the victims and with those who are suffering to this very day.”
Jimmy Riches, 29, was a member of Engine Co. 4 in lower Manhattan. His was one of the first units to respond to the World Trade Center that day.
James Riches said that over the years, he has been gratified whenever people who knew Jimmy come up to him to offer him an anecdote about his late son. “It warms my heart to know that people remember him,” the proud father said. “We miss him. We miss him on the holidays, especially.”
Riches spent months at Ground Zero following the attack, helping to recover the remains of victims. His son’s remains were found in March of 2002, five months after the attack. “We buried him out of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral,” He was particularly proud, he said, that his other three sons, all younger than Jimmy, have all become firefighters. “Jimmy was their hero before Sept. 11 and he’s still their hero,” Riches said.
The ceremony, which Golden holds every year, featured prayers from Rabbi Dina Rosenberg of the Bay Ridge Jewish Center, and the Rev. Msgr. Peter Kain, pastor of Saint Ephrem Catholic Church, the lighting of candles, a moment of silence, “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” and other patriotic songs performed by the Xaverian High School Band, a rendition of “God Bles The U.S.A.” by retired army sergeant Louis Licalzi, and a performance by Therese Panicali, music director of Saint Anselm Church, who sang “Let There Be Peace On Earth.”
As Panicali sang, Riches and Golden released two bunches of yellow balloons – one containing nine balloons and the other with 11 – into the air. The balloons floated into the night sky and appeared to be heading toward Manhattan.