Communities around Columbia County on Saturday marked the 20th anniversary of 9/11 with emotional ceremonies recalling the fallen.
On Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks struck the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon near Washington D.C., and a field in Shanksville, Pa., where passengers forced United Airlines Flight 93 to crash, preventing another terrorist strike.
Ceremonies were held in Hudson, Kinderhook and Germantown.
Of all the phrases that inspire New York firefighters — “service before self,” “never forget” — the one that hangs over the doorway of the Museum of Firefighting’s new exhibit commemorating 9/11 is “to aid and assist.”
David Quinn, treasurer at the museum, found that phrase more than fitting.
“That’s what our first responders did 20 years ago today, it’s what we’re still doing today, and what we will be doing tomorrow,” he said.
The Firemen’s Association of the State of New York’s Museum of Firefighting exhibit titled “Touchstone: Commemorating the 20th Anniversary of 9/11” opened Saturday in Hudson with a ribbon cutting attended by government representatives, firefighters and members of the public. Memorabilia on display include pieces of the jet plane that crashed into the first tower, doors from emergency medical service vehicles that responded that day, and more.
The attacks killed 2,977 people — the single largest loss of life resulting from a foreign attack on American soil — and 441 first responders, the greatest loss of emergency responders on a single day in American history, according to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum.
John D’Alessandro, FASNY secretary, reflected on a figure from that day that is immeasurable.
“Perhaps the most important number that day is one we will never truly know: it is just the number of lives saved. Because of the bravery of firefighters, law enforcement officers, EMS personnel who willingly went into harm’s way, because they fulfilled their commitment of service before self, thousands of people were able to go home to their families that night,” he said.
He also dedicated the day to a life lost: Lt. Vincent Giammona, of Ladder 5 in Greenwich Village, who turned 40 while responding to the terrorist attacks at the Twin Towers.
Hudson Mayor Kamal Johnson said he was in 11th grade that day, and he and classmates rushed to the school’s library to watch the events unfold.
“Before that second plane hit, we thought, ‘This has got to be a joke. This can’t be real,’” he said.
Since then, he has met many people who have been directly impacted by 9/11, including a neighbor who survived, that made him realize the long-lasting effects of the day.
Assemblywoman Didi Barrett, D-106, who also serves as chair of the veterans affairs committee, urged attendees to add a perspective to the solemn day.
“A figure that I’ve heard recently, which I think makes sense based on what we’ve hearing, is that there’s another 30,000 former military members and current military members, first responders, who have committed suicide since 9/11,” Barrett said. “And that’s from a pain and a struggle that we are not yet really addressing here in our communities. And I think that’s what I hope we take away forward from this moment.”
Bringing many in the room to tears, Rep. Antonio Delgado, D-19, shared a message of love in remembering first responders.
“On this horrific day 20 years ago, it was love and duty that drove our first responders into the burning Twin Towers,” he said. “And it was love that was the last thing on the minds of those who tragically perished.”
State Sen. Daphne Jordan, R-43, keynote speaker at the event, reflected on the Rev. Mychal Judge’s Sept. 10, 2001, homily. Judge was the New York City fire chaplain known as “The Saint of 9/11,” who died from the towers’ falling debris.
“Father Mychal Judge said, ‘That’s the way it is: Good days and bad days, up days and down days, sad days and happy days. But never a boring day on this job. You do what God has called you to do,’” Jordan quoted.
More than 1,000 gathered Saturday afternoon in Kinderhook Town Park to remember and honor those killed on Sept. 11, 2001.
The ceremony began with a parade that formed at Ichabod Crane Elementary School and marched down State Farm Road to the park. Sixteen fire companies from Columbia and Rensselaer counties participated, along with the American Legion, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, members of law enforcement, Valatie Rescue Squad, The East Coast Riders, and music from Columbia and District Pipe Band, and the Ichabod Crane Marching Band.
When the parade reached the town park it marched under a giant American flag strung between Valatie and Livingston ladder trucks.
Kinderhook Town Supervisor Patsy Leader welcomed the crowd and thanked the many volunteers who put the event together. The emotional ceremony included music, prayers and presentations honoring those that were killed 20 years ago.
The three speakers for the event included Environmental Conservation Officer Jeff Cox, who was assigned to Manhattan and served at Ground Zero for six months. He worked at the Emergency Operations Center, decontamination sites, and security details. Cox now lives in Old Chatham.
Susan Massarella now resides in Copake, but on Sept. 11, 2001, she was on the 72nd floor of 1 World Trade Center, working for the Port Authority as a contract administrator. She has since retired after serving 32 years and addressed the crowd Saturday.
Speaker Jerry Matthews spoke of his role as chief of Port Authority Police when 9/11 took place. Matthews assisted with the rescue efforts following the attacks. He retired from that position after 23 years of service.
This was the 20th annual ceremony at the Columbia County 911 Memorial, which was built in 2002 by Girl Scouts.
The 20th anniversary of 9/11 was marked in Germantown on Saturday with a ceremony near two pieces of the Twin Towers.
At precisely 8:46 a.m., the time when the first tower was struck 20 years ago, Germantown held a ceremony honoring the lives of those who were affected that day and in the years that followed.
“We lost thousands of Americans, including several hundred first responders,” Germantown Town Supervisor Robert Beaury said. “So today we’re here to remember those that we lost, and to also remember how important it is that our first responders be recognized and respected. While many, many thousands of civilians were moving quickly away from the Trade Center, fire trucks, police cars and ambulances were heading toward the danger.”
Over 50 people were in attendance at the ceremony, including veterans, the Germantown Fire Department, members of the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office, town board members, Boy Scout Troop 122, Assemblywoman Didi Barrett, D-106, and U.S. Rep. Antonio Delgado, D-19.
“Many hundreds of the first responders entered the Trade Center, tried to rescue — some of them made several rescues — brought people back out, but several of them didn’t make it out the fourth or fifth time they went back in,” Beaury said.
The crowd gathered at Palatine Park across from the 9/11 Monument where two pieces of the towers are displayed.
“Twenty years ago today, our nation, our way of life and our freedom was attacked,” Delgado said. “In a single day, we lost almost 3,000 Americans in New York, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. For two decades, this day has marked loss and pain. But it also reminds us what service, strength, resiliency and unity really mean.”
Delgado spoke about the men and women who ran into a burning building and up flights of stairs making rescues. He spoke of the importance of love and read an excerpt of a phone message left by a passenger who had been on United Airlines Flight 93.
“Amidst our suffering and our pain, we must love one another,” Delgado said. “Give love to one another, never forget this. You cannot retreat into your own despairs and routines and forget those who served us. You can’t forget the first responders who spent painstaking months sifting through the rubble, you can’t forget our service members who gave their lives to protect our country and our way of life. We cannot forget those who perished in the attacks.”
Barrett has chaired the committee on veterans’ affairs for the last two state Legislature sessions, she said, and has worked with Gary Flaherty, director of the Columbia County Veterans Agency, and others present at the ceremony who have taught her a great deal about trauma.
“The veterans’ community, particularly the post-9/11 community, and I just want to talk for a minute about trauma,” Barrett said. “Because I think that all of us here know that word, but all of us feel it differently. And for our first responders and our veterans, the notion of trauma is something that they feel is, I believe is my understanding, nobody really understands other than people who have experienced similar kinds of things.”
The nation experienced trauma on 9/11, but the broader topic of mental and behavioral health and trauma continues to be stigmatized, Barrett said.
“While we know that 3,000 of our first responders and citizens died in the 9/11 attacks, and another 7,000 servicemen and women were lost in the battles and the wars that came in the post-9/11 era, I heard most recently the figure of 30,000 service men and women who have committed suicides since then,” Barrett said. “And that’s dealing with trauma in a way none of us want to see happen. I just want to leave you with that moment, let’s figure out a way to do better as a community and as a state and as a nation and a planet to recognize people’s hurt and need to figure out a way to support them and accept it and without judgement, but making an opportunity to heal and be supportive.”
The ceremony included a rendition of the national anthem and “God Bless America.” Boy Scouts raised and saluted the flag near the momument while the Americain Legion played taps at the ceremony’s conclusion.