BOROUGHWIDE – Never forget. In Brooklyn, those words are more than a motto.
Led by local elected officials, hundreds of residents in two Brooklyn neighborhoods miles apart held memorial events Wednesday night to mark the grim 18th anniversary of the devastating Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center.
State Sen. Andrew Gounardes and Councilmember Justin Brannan organized a touching candlelight vigil on the 69th Street Pier. The memorial also included a moment of silence in tribute to the victims.
Gounardes also led a memorial in Marine Park at the opposite end of his sprawling Senate district. The senator worked with Councilmember Alan Maisel to put the Marine Park service together.
New York City officially marked the anniversary with a ceremony at the World Trade Center site. But the community-based memorials are also important, according to Gounardes.
“Each year, at community vigils, we share our collective grief and remembrance of 9/11,” Gounardes said on Thursday after leading the two commemorations. “Last night, we lit candles to mourn those we lost on that terrible day. We carry on the tradition of these vigils so that we don’t just ‘never forget’ but also always remember.”
The participants at each remembrance event included friends of the victims who were killed on Sept. 11, 2001 when hijackers deliberately crashed jetliners into the North and South Towers of the World Trade Center.
More than 2,000 people were killed at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon in Washington D.C. and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where the heroic passengers of United Flight 93 stormed the cockpit and fought in vain to gain control of the airplane from the hijackers. The plane crashed in a field in Shanksville.
In the years since 9/11, hundreds of firefighters, police officers and recovery crew members who worked at the World Trade Center site in the weeks and months after the attacks have died of cancer, respiratory diseases and other causes stemming from the toxic and deadly air they breathed.
The 69th street Pier, the site of annual 9/11 anniversary commemorations that began with Gounardes’ predecessor, former State Sen. Marty Golden, is a fitting spot at which to hold a service. Golden led vigils on the pier every year on Sept. 11.
The pier, which juts out onto New York Harbor, offers a clear view of Lower Manhattan, including the newly rebuilt World Trade Center. On Sept. 11, 2001, hundreds of Bay Ridge residents flocked to the pier to watch the tragic events across the harbor as they unfolded in real time.
The pier is also the site of “The Beacon,” a sculpture by artist Richard Ressier, who was commissioned to create a permanent memorial to Brooklyn victims of Sept. 11. The 25-foot-high bronze sculpture is shaped like a 19th century firefighter’s bugle.
Michael Bloomberg, who was the mayor at the time, dedicated the sculpture in 2006. The idea to have a permanent memorial on the pier came from the group Brooklyn Remembers, a coalition of political, business and civic leaders.
Bay Ridge has a special connection to Sept. 11. More than two dozen local residents died at the World Trade Center, including cops, firefighters and people who worked in financial firms headquartered in the Twin Towers. A walk around the neighborhood reveals dozens of signs signifying streets named in memory of individual victims.
Xaverian High School, a Catholic school on Shore Road, lost 23 members of its alumni in the attacks.
“Our community was one of the hardest hit by the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11. In Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights alone, we named 26 streets in honor of our neighbors who were killed. Like so many, I lost people I grew up with, salt of the earth souls – cops, cooks, firefighters and Wall Street traders. Twenty-three guys from my high school died that day,” said Brannan, a Xaverian graduate.
Brannan also recalled the aftermath of Sept. 11 and marveled at how the city and nation came together.“It’s on us to forever carry on the legacy of those we lost because it’s only by the grace of God that it wasn’t one of us. We all remember the way people came together in the days and weeks following the attacks. We were good to each other. We were kind, patient and understanding. We saw each other as human beings and recognized that we were all in this together. Eighteen years later, we owe it those we lost to bring that spirit back. That’s New York City. That’s America – where we celebrate our diversity because we know it’s what makes us strong. The America that can summon the courage to overcome any challenge. The home to everyone from everywhere America. The beacon of light that never goes out America,” Brannan said.
Marine Park also saw its share of loss on Sept. 11.
One of the victims who lost his life that day was Firefighter James Coyle who grew up in Marine Park and was the grandson of a firefighter, according to the Facebook page of the National Sept. 11 Memorial & Museum.
Coyle joined the FDNY in 2000 and worked in Ladder Co. 3. He planned to leave for a vacation to Chicago on Sept. 11 but instead, rushed to the World Trade Center.
ebrooklyn media/Photos by Arthur De Gaeta
Scenes from the Marine Park vigil.
ebrooklyn media/Photos by Corazon Aguirre
Scenes from the vigil on the 69th Street Pier.