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Twin Counties honor 9/11 victims

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    Melanie Lekocevic/Columbia-Greene Media A flag flies overhead during the 9/11 ceremony at the emergency services building in Cairo.
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    Melanie Lekocevic/Columbia-Greene Media The Honor Guard at Columbia-Greene Community College opened the 9/11 memorial service on Wednesday.
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    Melanie Lekocevic/Columbia-Greene Media Veterans salute during the service.
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    Melanie Lekocevic/Columbia-Greene Media The Honor Guard presents the colors during the 9/11 service at Columbia-Greene Community College.
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    Melanie Lekocevic/Columbia-Greene Media Legislator Bill Lawrence, R-Cairo, served as master of ceremonies at the Greene County memorial to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
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    Melanie Lekocevic/Columbia-Greene Media College President Carlee Drummer addresses the crowd during Wednesday’s memorial ceremony.
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    Melanie Lekocevic/Columbia-Greene Media Guest speaker Brian McQueen, director of the National Volunteer Fire Council, addresses the crowd.
September 11, 2019 03:49 pm Updated: September 11, 2019 09:18 pm

On the 18th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the Twin Counties on Wednesday marked the occasion with solemn remembrances of those who died and memories of the tragedy that shocked the world.

In Greene County, the day was honored with a service on the grounds of the Greene County Department of Emergency Services on Volunteer Drive in Cairo, and in Columbia County there was a ceremony at the 9/11 Memorial on the campus of Columbia-Greene Community College.

GREENE COUNTY

Legislator William Lawrence, R-Cairo, opened the Cairo observance.

“Eighteen years ago on this date, over 400 first responders lost their lives in the terrorist attack in New York City, along with nearly 3,000 innocent people,” Lawrence told the crowd, and pointed to a physical reminder of that day.

“That memory of loss and sacrifice is anchored here today by an artifact of the World Trade Center that stands behind me,” he said.

He went on to speak of the lung-related illnesses that still plague many who were at the scene that day and in the days and weeks that followed.

“Since then, many of those first responders at the site in New York City, and those who worked or lived there and survived, some 10,000 of them, have been diagnosed with 9/11-related cancer, and have been lost to us or are still dealing with the debilitating after-effects of that horrible day,” Lawrence said.

The ceremony’s guest speaker was Brian McQueen, director of the National Volunteer Fire Council. He dedicated his speech to a friend, a fellow first responder who died one year ago of a form of cancer related to his service at the site of the World Trade Center. Thousands of first responders were diagnosed years later with illnesses that stem from toxic substances released when the towers fell. In fact, he said, more people have since died from toxic exposure than were killed “on that terrible Tuesday.”

“These acts of mass murder were intended to frighten our nation into chaos and retreat, but they failed. Our country today is strong,” McQueen said.

The people who were lost on the day the World Trade Center was attacked will always be remembered, he said.

“Today in Greene County, our firefighters, law enforcement, EMS, our veterans and families, will never forget the 3,000 beautiful lives that were taken from us so cruelly,” McQueen said.

The heroism of those first responders who rushed into the towers that day, never to return, should remain with all of us, McQueen urged the crowd.

“This anniversary has been etched into my memory forever,” he said.

Assemblyman Chris Tague, R-102, also addressed the crowd.

“The events of Sept. 11 forever changed the trajectory of our nation and the devastating impact of that day still lingers,” Tague said. “Nearly 3,000 American lives were lost and more than 6,000 others were injured in the horrifying incidents in New York City, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania. But countless more lives were changed as a result of this heinous attack — children and surviving family members have endured the reality of homes that would never, ever be the same.”

COLUMBIA COUNTY

The ceremony at Columbia-Greene Community College was held at the campus’s 9/11 Memorial, with Joseph Watson, vice president and dean of students and enrollment management, delivering the opening remarks.

“This is a day of remembrance for those who lost their lives, and for those who gave their lives — we remember,” Watson said.

The school’s Honor Guard, consisting of students who are military veterans, presented the colors, followed by a series of speakers sharing their memories of that day.

Terry Bellanger, vice president of the college’s staff union, was the first speaker. She urged people to focus not on “hating the killers, but about blessing the memory of those we lost.”

Catherine Carlson, director of accessibility services for the college, shared a conversation she had with a neighbor who worked in Manhattan and lived in Brooklyn at the time of the attack, and said, “It was a pivotal event for her.”

“This event shattered her sense of peace and security and, in fact, shortly thereafter, three months later, she decided she was coming upstate, where she felt safer and more secure and better able to control her environment,” Carlson said.

College President Carlee Drummer thanked the crowd for gathering to remember the day and to “memorialize what I think is one of the most defining moments, at least in my generation. I know exactly what I was feeling at the time, in the same way that I will never forget the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., and the explosion of the Challenger — those were the three defining moments leading up to the World Trade Center situation.”

Speakers also remembered those who died in the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon and the airplane that crashed in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.