Everyone remembers where they were on September 11,2001. I can still picture the crystal clear blue sky that morning as I began the perfect September day. Thinking back now, we were relatively care-free and oblivious at 8:46 AM when American Airlines Flight 11was intentionally flown into the World Trade Center’s North Tower in lower Manhattan by radical Islamic terrorists that had high-jacked the plane.
The initial reports didn’t state that it was a commercial airliner, so I think most people who heard those reports assumed it was a small private plane. I know I did as I watched the extended Today Show in my office in Central Jersey and the confused commentators speculated on what had happened. Then we all watched on live TV as the second plane hit the South Tower. The world has never been the same since that moment in time when it became clear to everyone that this was no accident. We know
how the day unfolded from there and what it now represents in our history. It touches each of us differently on a personal level, but from a national perspective it signifies the strength and resiliency of the American spirit. We remember September 11th now for those we lost and for the pure gallantry of the first responders who ran into those burning buildings to save the innocent
victims. We are inspired by the heroic actions of the passengers on United Flight 93 that can be summed up in the profound selflessness of two words: “Let’s Roll”. And we now properly honor and value our men and women in uniform more than ever, based on these events. For these reasons, Harrison Township began a process more than two years ago to obtain a piece of
the World Trade Center for remembrance purposes. Our Deputy Mayor, Dennis Clowney, took the lead in this pursuit, as he does for all Veterans’ Affairs in the township. It should not go unnoticed that his tenacity is the reason this quest was successful. We were repeatedly told that all remnants of the Towers had been allocated, but Dennis kept asking and kept the pressure on. Then, in July, we received notice that our request would be granted.
On August 12, 2015,a small group led by Mr. Clowney and myself, took the ride up to JFK Airport’s Hanger 17,where all the Ground Zero material has been stored. We were picking up a piece of box steel from the South Tower of the World Trade Center. It’s a six foot section of the exterior wall that made up the “three-column, three-spandrel ” sections that spanned the building’s length and gave the Towers their distinctive appearance. Our piece of the Tower weighs 2080 lbs and we are told that it likely comes from between the 20th and 40th floors, based on the thickness of the steel. We had spread the word of this retrieval and the plan to “welcome” the artifact to town with a gathering at William Wilt Park at SPM. As planned, upon exiting the NJ Turnpike, we were met by an escort team of our Police and Fire vehicles and a dozen members of the Roughnecks Motorcycle Club. We followed Route 322 onto the Bypass, where cars had pulled over in observance; with many of the passengers and onlookers snapping photos as we went by. We entered the Park area under the span of two ladder trucks fully extended with a huge American flag hanging as a Welcome drape.
Close to 100 people had gathered to recognize the arrival of this artifact and we said a prayer and a few words to mark the occasion. We then allowed those who wanted the opportunity to touch the steel beam to board the truck and do so and take pictures. It will now be stored in our Public Works Building as we plan the permanent memorial to be constructed,but we will bring it out for public viewing in the interim on appropriate occasions.
Harrison Township is a wonderful place to live and raise a family. It stands as the classic example of American suburban life in the Northeast portion of the United States. September 11th is now known as Patriot Day, which calls for each of us to recognize that patriotic spirit within ourselves and share it with those we love,especially our children. It’s a day to acknowledge that
our way of life is only possible because of the original patriots, our Founding Fathers. We recall that the concept of America was born with their words ……..”We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness “. With all its
imperfections, America still stands as the beacon of freedom and benevolence to the world. We are like no other culture in human history and September 11th is a day to show our patriotic pride in that distinction and also recognize how fragile it is.