ATLANTIC HIGHLANDS – Congressman Chris Smith commemorated those who lost their lives in the 9-11 terrorist attack 20 years ago but assured the silenced crowd at the Mount Mitchill ceremony that we are a nation of resolve and strength and will always meet the challenges to our democracy.
The annual memorial ceremony was presented by the Monmouth County Board of County Commissioners in cooperation with the Monmouth County Recreation Commission at the county-owned Mount Mitchill, where hundreds gathered 20 years go in shock and grief as they watched the collapse of the World Trade Center across the bay.
Smith, who has participated in the Atlantic Highlands site ceremony almost every year since the memorial began, said after the ceremony that indeed he is angry about what he termed our nation’s disastrous departure from Afghanistan last month, but he is “full of resolve, even more so now.” He said he feels certain the terrorists “are regrouping, they’re planning,” and resolve and strength are both essential for the United States.
In his remembrances to the crowd in attendance at the morning ceremony, Smith recalled he was chairing a Veteran’s Affair committee hearing at the time of the worst terroristic attack in history, and vividly recalls courageous first responders running upstairs of burning building, saving others at the cost of their own lives. HE recalls the horror and pain suffered by al, the tens of thousands who have become sick or died since exposure to the burning buildings, and sadly noted that more responders and survivors today “live in my congressional district than any other in New Jersey.” He referred to the Monmouth Countians who provided assistant as “the great boat life of 9/11 and the waterborne rescue of hundreds of thousands “Caught between the river and Armageddon”
The Congressman brought out his own personal grief during the hours he could not learn the fate of his own brother and sister-in-aw, he a pilot, she an attendant for American Airlines. His brother Tom often piloted Flight 11, the plan that crashed into the North Tower. Smith learned it was not his brother’s flight that day but the agony of knowing the crews that did perish.
“America’s disastrous withdrawal just days ago—and the leaving behind of Americans and Afghan allies—makes America less safe, requiring more vigilance than ever,” Smith concluded.
Commissioner Director Thomas A. Arnone spoke on the importance of both remembering the past and being prepared for the future, never forgetting the 147 Monmouth Countians who lost their lives at the World Trade Center. He also praised the numerous residents of Monmouth County who came to the aid of those who escaped the city by water, seeking refuge in towns along Monmouth County’s waterways and the assistance of residents and businesses here.
Members of the Recreation Commission read each of the names of those honored on the Eagle sculpture at Mount Mitchill. The sculpture was created by Franco Minervini and includes a piece of metal from the Trade Center held in the eagle’s talons.
Four of the county commissioners, Arnone, Deputy Director Susan Kiley, and Commissioners Nick DiRocco and Ross Licitra, County Clerk Christine Hanlon, Surrogate and former Middletown Mayor Rosemarie Peters, and Acting Prosecutor Lori Linskey tolled the bell for each of the significant moments of the planes hitting their targets and the collapse of the buildings. County Commissioner Lilian G. Burry, who has spearheaded the memorial ceremony with the Monmouth County Parks system for each of the past ceremonies, was absent this year.
The Count Basie Center Gospel Choir presented music for the program, with the Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office providing the Honor Guard and the Atlantic Watch Pipe and Drum Band beginning the program with a bagpipe interlude.
The Rev. Garry Koch, pastor of St. Benedict’s Church in Holmdel and Pastor Chris Durkin of the Colts Neck Community Church, offered the invocation and benediction to open and close the memorial ceremony.
The County Parks system presented white carnations to each of those present for the symbolic placing of the flowers on the sculpture.