Brooklyn Remembers: “Our Hearts Are Full Of Bitter Holes”
Many tears have been shed for the innocent victims lost to 9/11, and although 11 years have passed since the day we all have engraved in our memories, Brooklynites got together once more at various locations to honor those who were lost that fateful day.
Hundreds of people, including victims’ families and friends — who will never have closure — came to the American Veterans Memorial Pier, Shore Road and Bay Ridge Avenue, to light a candle in memory of their loved ones.
The most immediate pain may have ceased, but finding a shoulder to cry on and sharing the legacy of a mom, a brother, a sister, or a young son “who will never walk through that door again,” as Retired FDNY Deputy Fire Chief Jim Riches said, helps them cope.
Jim Riches lost his son, firefighter Jimmy Riches, 33, on the day of the attack. He stayed at Ground Zero and looked for his son’s remains until March 2002, when he finally was able to recover his son’s body. At the ceremony, he spoke of how his family held a funeral for young Riches shortly after, receiving the support of the Bay Ridge community.
“It was really nice to see that they really cared about him,” Riches said, noting that he is “missed every day.” His three younger brothers all became firefighters.
Interviewed before the ceremony, Lieutenant Joseph Seeney, who has worked for the FDNY for 32 years, said in between tears that the hardest part was to see Riches, a friend, desperately searching for his son. “He never gave up until he found him.”
Seeney explained that when a firefighter’s remains are found, a flag is placed upon him. “He escorted him with his other sons.”
“It doesn’t get worse than that,” Seeney said, adding that although over 3,000 lives were lost that day, it was because of heroes like Riches that 2,300 people got to go home. “The price was huge, if that’s any consolation.”
Attorney Arthur Aidala, who attended the memorial, remembered his friend, Joseph Hasson, whom he knew since the age of nine. “We went to Poly Prep together,” he recalled, saying that Hasson was like a brother to him. Unlike Riches, Hasson’s remains were never recovered.
Aidala wears a bracelet engraved with his friend’s name everywhere he goes.
State Senator Martin Golden, who organized the memorial, paid his respects. “We made a promise that Tuesday morning,” Golden stated. “We will not let the memory be forgotten.
“Our world was changed forever; so many families were destroyed,” he continued. “While we remember, we also rebuild,” speaking of the progress of the Freedom Tower, and the memorial that has been created. “Our generation and the next will never forget. We walk into those grounds, and see people from around the world; we all know that those souls that paid the price are indeed with God.”
Golden was preceded by Rabbi Dina Rosenberg from the Bay Ridge Jewish Center, who said an opening prayer. As the memorial progressed, candles were lit and the Xaverian High School Pipe and Drums played “Amazing Grace.”
Near the end, yellow balloons were released to fill the air with hope, as the Towers of Light shimmered in the distance dominating the lower Manhattan skyline.
Then, Monsignor Peter Kain, the pastor at St. Ephrem’s Church, voiced the closing prayer, vocalizing for all the sense of loss. “We didn’t have to know their names to mourn their souls,” Kain intoned. “Our hearts are full of bitter holes.”
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