BAY RIDGE — “We will never forget.”
These were words spoken often at U.S. Army Garrison Fort Hamilton as it hosted its annual 9/11 commemoration ceremony to honor those who died in the terrorist attacks that occurred 18 years ago.
Held at the community club on Sept. 6, the event featured speeches and a 21-gun salute as elected officials, first responders and others gathered to pay tribute to the fallen..
USAG Commander Col. Andrew Zieseniss recalled the day and the impact it had..
“For many who bear the physical or mental scars of Sept. 11, every day is a day of remembrance,” he said. “For the families of first responders and military service members who lost loved ones and continue to lose loved ones, every day is a day of remembrance and for those who serve and continue to serve, every day is a day is remembrance. The tragic events 18 years ago had and continue to have a profound impact on individual families and all of us as a nation.”
He also discussed the importance of remembering those that lost their lives trying to save those who were in harm’s way.
“We can never allow the passing of time to shorten our memories of the human toll that occurred almost two decades ago and continues to occur to this day,” he said. “When we walk down Third Avenue or go about our daily lives here in the city or any other place in America, it’s easy to forget the heroes that are ready to help us at a moment’s notice . Without hesitation, our first responders answers hundreds of calls for help every day. In many cases, they do so without question. These men and women are true heroes. They are giants. I assure you, they don’t do it for the money. You can never repay them for what they do for us, day in and day out.”
The day’s keynote speaker was FDNY Staten Island Borough Commander Kevin Woods. In addition to Staten Island, his command covers southwest Brooklyn.
“The FDNY and the U.S. military continue to share a common thread. We maintain a great friendship and a great partnership,” Woods said. “The FDNY lost 343 members on 9/11. Our city also lost 23 Port Authority officers and 23 members of the NYPD, and countless military personnel since 9/11. But, let us not forget about all of the victims. A total of 2,997 people died on that day, especially those people that woke up on a beautiful Tuesday morning and only wanted to do the right thing: Go to work and provide for their families.”
Woods was a first responder on Sept. 11, assigned to Division 11 on Tillary Street in North Brooklyn.
“There was a total recall of FDNY uniform personnel,” he told his listeners. “Those of us who were off duty responded to the WTC directly or our firehouses to pick up tools, equipment and gear. The team I was with commandeered an MTA bus and responded to the site. All the buildings had collapsed by that time and the tools we had with us seemed useless when we witnessed the devastation. Later that day, we witnessed the collapse of 7 World Trade Center. We spent hours, days, weeks and months at the site, first as a rescue mission and then as a recovery mission. Members would split their time between the site, firehouse coverage and then funerals and memorials.”
Among those who perished trying to save lives that day, Woods recalled, were FDNY Chief Dennis Cross and Capt. Timothy Stackpole.
“Both men responded and never came home,” Woods said. “Chief Cross was only covering the spot for the day and was set to retire. Close to 40 years on job. Capt. Stackpole just returned from leave after major injuries.”
The deaths haven’t stopped.
“Since 9/11, NYPD, FDNY, and military have been affected by illness and injury,” Woods said. “FDNY has lost over 200 members to cancer and other illnesses. These cancers are directly related to the World Trade Center rescue and recovery operation.”
He also talked about the oft-spoken phrase, “We will never forget.
“It doesn’t have any substance or meaning unless you act on these words,” Woods contended. “That is why we are here today: To take action on our fallen heroes.”