The sun had already begun its descent over Sunset Park onSunday, September 11, but the smiles on the faces of thosefirefighters and auxiliary police officers assembled only grewbrighter as the sound of dozens of voices singing verses of GodBless America echoed across the grass and benches.
Over 100 people of all cultures – Asian, Latin American,Caribbean American, Middle Eastern and more – stood at the base ofthe flagpole inside the park, facing the assembled firefighters ofEngine Company 228 on 39th Street while holding lit candles aloft.They sang together as one – as Americans remembering their lostloved ones and honoring those heroes who are still alive.
That is what we intend to do every year with this ceremony,said Councilmember Sara M. González, whose office coordinated theevent, an annual tradition started in 2002. Too often, peopleforget the sacrifices made by city firefighters and policeofficers, she said, and that is why [we] hold this ceremony everyyear, to help people remember, to never forget.
Among those victims honored with a reading of their names wereLieutenant Paul Martini, Firefighter John Schardt, Firefighter GregBuck and Firefighter Christopher Pickford from Engine 201;Firefighter Jimmy Riches from Ladder 114; Battalion Chief JosephGrzelak and Firefighter Michael Bocchino from Battalion 48; andFirefighter Chris Mozzillo from Engine 282. All served thecommunities of Sunset Park, Windsor Terrace and Kensington.
Hearing these names read and watching community members bowtheir heads in silent respect, Battalion Chief Mark Egan rememberedhis older brother, FDNY Captain Martin Egan, 36, who died when theWorld Trade Center fell a decade ago.
It’s nice that people are here and don’t forget what happenedand what [firefighters] did, said Egan, who serves with Battalion40 in Boro Park. He had just come in to [his shift at] work… Iwas still on the ferry coming over from Staten Island.
It was clear that all those in attendance remembered thosesacrifices, as well as the tragedy itself and the ensuing feelingof shock and anxiety that followed.
We experienced it, witnessed it going on in high school, and Iwanted to share it with my daughter so she could remember, saidNicole Gonzalez, who was pregnant at the time of her internship[through Paul Robeson High School] at Solomon Smith Barney on the33rd floor of 7 World Trade Center, across the street from the TwinTowers. I lost my mentor, Samantha Smith. Any time I hear of achance to remember, we jump at it because it’s important to bringeveryone together.
Local religious and business leaders also attended, holdinghands and leading the assembled residents in prayer and moments ofsilence.
It will bring us together, our good will grow… and becomemore profound, more purposeful, as we collaborate for the good ofour city, said Bishop Joseph Mattera, senior pastor ofResurrection Church at 40th Street and Seventh Avenue. We pray forthe families, for all of us, for those who perished, and we reflecton what really matters in life… Thank you God for our love forone another.