HAWLEY - September 11, 2001 is not so distant a memory thanks to the vigilance of those who keep the tradition to remember the terrorist attacks that befell America that day- and the uncommon courage that sprang up. One such place is Bingham Park, Hawley, where each year on this date, people gather around the memorial set up in 2011.
On the 17th anniversary of 9/11, under cloudy skies and standing on soggy grass, approximately 30 people formed a circle joining the memorial. There were prayers, reflections and remarks offering tribute.
Robert Essex, retired New York City policeman, and Sue Baldwin, both who live in the Hawley area, organize the ceremony each year. Essex served nearly daily for eight months on duty at the ruins of the World Trade Center.
They were the principal agents to raise funds for the memorial, which includes stone and steel from the World Trade Center. Engravings recall the three sites of destruction, the Trade Center, the Pentagon and Flight 93 which crashed in a Somerset County, PA field.
Rev. William Samford, pastor of the 1st Presbyterian Church in Hawley, led in prayer. He recalled that on the morning of 9/11/01, he was visiting his parents in California when he turned on the TV thinking he’d see the Today Show. He learned of what had happened. The airport at Los Angeles closed, and when it reopened, Samford said it was like a “ghost town” with armed military personnel on duty.
Since that day, the minister noted, a whole new generation has risen that doesn’t remember 9/11. He said it was essential to keep these memorials so that no one will forget and one day we can have a world at peace.
Baldwin asked all to keep those who still suffer from 9/11 in prayer.
Essex stated that 37 members of his police department unit were on duty at the Trade Center believing they could save lives. He said they believed in something even if meant sacrificing their lives.
Steve Kaminsky, of Lakeville retired in 2005 from the Middlesex, NJ police department. He said that he led 185 officers from his department to assist at the scene of the Trade Center.
What they encountered, he recalled, was horror they could not imagine. They were there five days in the dust and ruins, searching for victims. Like many others, Kaminsky’s health suffered from working in the dust, developing a type of asthma which he said is managed by medication.
Kaminsky’s father was 96 when he died two years ago. Each year his father attended a ceremony marking the Pearl Harbor attack of December 7, 1941, launching America’s role in World War II.
He noted that at 9/11/01, many more people died in the attacks than at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on 12/07/41.
Each year there would be less and less people at Pearl Harbor observances, as time marched on. So it is with 9/11, except for the determination of those who seek to remember and remind a new generation.