FREEHOLD – Small town America showed how big and magnificent it really is as the borough of Freehold’s Human Relations Committee conducted its Sept. 11 Remembrance ceremony at borough hall Sunday evening.

More than 500 participants and spectators filled the chairs and spilled out into Main Street, which the Mayor and Council had closed to vehicular traffic for the event to hear and see people of all ages participate in the program honoring the 147 residents of Monmouth County who lost their lives in the attacks 15 years ago.

Jane Fields chaired the event for the Committee, assisted by cochairman Gianna Dell’Omo.

Shawne Decristofaro of Florence, who was in the Park Avenue Middle School’s accelerated class 7th grade class 15 years ago, gave a moving talk explaining how students in that class, guided by their teacher helping them overcome the grief and understand the tragedy of the event, designed, made a prototype and raised funds for the 9-11 memorial that is in front of borough hall today. The concrete monument recognizes the losses in New York, Washington, DC and Shanksville, Pa. and pays tribute to all who lost their lives helping others.

In his address to the crowd, Higgins quoted from Lincolns’ Gettsyburg address noting the ground was hallowed by those who lost their lives that day.

The Human Relations Committee, dedicated to combating the causes of bias and discrimination that result in acts of violence, vandalism and violation of civil rights, invited civic, patriotic, emergency and religious groups to participate in the candlelight and all responded with fervor.

Music throughout the 90 minute program was provided by retired State Trooper Daniel Murphy on the Bagpipes, as well as the St. Rose of Lima Church choir, the Bethel AME Church senior choir, the Freehold Borough Chorus and the Borough’s Intermediate School Band.

Invocation and benediction were offered by Pastor Ronald Sparks of Bethel AME church and Rev. Dirk Reinken of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church.

Members of the fire department, first aid squad and police department joined Higgins in placing wreaths at the 9-11 Memorial designed by the students 15 years ago. Members of the American Legion, Post 54, presented colors and students from the Intermediate School led the pledge of allegiance. The Marine Corps League provided taps at the closing of the ceremony.

Members of the fire department, located adjacent to borough hall, tolled the bell as the home towns of each of those who lost their lives Sept. 11 were recognized. Bells were also tolled for Lawrence Francis Boisseau and Ruth Lapin, as well as Frederick Hoffmann, Michele Hoffman, Dennis Moroney, Carmen Milagros Rodriguez, and Wendy Alice Rosario Wakeford, residents of Freehold borough and township who perished that day.

Volunteers from the Commission distributed candles for a final candle ceremony at dusk.