Story and photo by Joseph Sapia
MIDDLETOWN – As he left the annual remembrance ceremony for the 37 township residents who were killed at the World Trade Center terrorist attacks on 9/11, Tom Farina had tears in his eyes.
Farina was in downtown Manhattan when the two terrorist-controlled passenger jets flew into the twin towers on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001.
“It’s one of those things – you reflect on what happened,” said Farina, 50, who lives near the township World Trade Center Memorial Gardens, at 36 Church Street. “You feel very fortunate. I was very fortunate; I was home by noon.”
Fifteen years after the terrorist attack, hundreds gathered to reflect and remember at the Gardens. They made their way along the serene landscaped path at the gardens, holding lit candles, to read the stones engraved with the names of those who were killed.
“It’s incumbent on all of us to never let the memory fade,” Mayor Gerard P. Scharfenberger told those attending. “May God bless the souls of the victims of the 9/11 attack and God bless America.”
Scharfenberger said the ceremony was not only to remember the 37 Middletown residents who did not come home that day, but to honor those who took action that day in some way against the terrorist attacks – attacks that included the Pentagon outside of Washington and the downing of a passenger jet in western Pennsylvania.
U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-4) asked, “Who can forget the courageous first responders running up the stairs of burning buildings?”
The ceremony was attended by township, county, state and federal officials, emergency responders and local residents.
Maria Casale, 46, a lifelong township resident, attended the ceremony wearing an American flag tank-top. She said she wore the shirt so as “never to forget.”
“Everybody’s ‘taking a knee,’” said Casale, referring to some high school and professional athletes that have been kneeling during the national anthem, in part to protest injustice in America. “I’ve got to stand up.”
Casale’s mother, Rita Casale, 86, said she attended the ceremony to pay respect and honor the victims. “They did more for us than we could do for them.”
Both are members of the Ladies Auxiliary of Veterans of Foreign Wars No. 2179, Middletown.
Stephen Kealy, a township resident, was the volunteer project coordinator on the Gardens for the Heavy and General Construction Laborers Union Local No. 472, Newark. “I know people that passed away that have the memorial here, several of them,” said Kealy, 74, now retired. “A heartfelt loss.”
As he left the ceremony, Farina said he was thankful for how the township keeps the 9/11 memory alive. He noted the large crowd.
“Fifteen years later, there’s a lot of people here,” said Farina, adding that fact says something in itself.
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