Never Forget: Tears, Taps and Towers of Light

September 12, 2013 Heather Chin
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It may be 2013, but the impact and emotions of September 11, 2001 are no less palpable today than they were 12 years ago.

That is why the annual commemoration ceremony at the September 11th Memorial on the 69th Street Veterans Memorial Pier is something that residents of Bay Ridge and Brooklyn look forward to each year.

U.S. Army veteran Michael Kerrgone and Shirley Hawker.

“Our child likes music and it’s nice that people can come talk together and be together,” said Andrey Tarnarutskiy, who walked to the ceremony with his wife and 16-month old daughter.

“I come every year to honor the folks who lost their lives. Bay Ridge lost many sons and daughters; there were many people I went to school with,” said resident Mary Quiñones. “So we came to be in solidarity with people.”

The sun was setting and ceremony participants had a clear view across the harbor of the newly completed “Freedom Tower” at One World Trade in Lower Manhattan. As the Xaverian High School Band performed, members of the Fort Hamilton ROTC and others passed out candles, which were soon lit—one neighbor to another—to the strains of bagpipes playing “Amazing Grace.”

David Turner showed his true colors.

“Tonight, 12 years later, where many of us stood watching billowing smoke across the water, we look at the Towers of Light, imagine the Twin Towers, [and] remember that we live in the greatest city in the world,” said State Senator Marty Golden, who has hosted the ceremony every year, and who reminded those assembled of the weeks of food and supply donations, missing persons searches, and other volunteer work and camaraderie that Brooklynites banded together to do in 2001.

Colonel Eluyn Gines of Fort Hamilton Army Base noted that many troops today were only in elementary school back then, and that “the military changed because of September 11.”

The attendees stood and saluted.

Vietnam veteran Carol Matuszewski, who served in the U.S. Air Force, shared the sentiment.

“I feel like this was something that changed our whole perspective. This was an act of war and I pray for those who lost loved ones,” said Matuszewski, a long-time Ridgeite. “When I saw this happening on TV, I felt such anger. That feeling has never gone away.

“This event brings closure, maybe,” she said. “Every time I come [to the pier], see the Freedom Tower. . . it’s nice.”

The event is organized in collaboration with community groups and city organizations such as CERT, BRAVO, Fort Hamilton Army Base, the NYC Joint Service Color Guard, the FDNY, the 68th Precinct, NYC Parks and Recreation Department, and the NY Empire Shield Joint Task Force.

Live music and the Concert of Hope were provided by the Xaverian HS Band, retired Sgt. Louis Licalzi—who sang God Bless the USA—and the Stephen Josephs Band featuring SFC George Masone from the 319th Army Band.

Flags were prominently displayed by crowd members.

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