Hung from the crane of Highland’s Fire Engine #45, a large American flag billowed in the hot evening wind as hundreds gathered to honor and remember those who suffered and are still suffering from the tragic terrorist attacks of 9/11.
The memorial service in front of the Highland Hose Company and the Veterans’ Memorial off Vineyard Avenue in Lloyd opened with a heartrending version of the National Anthem, sung a cappella by local resident, Jessica Avampato. On either side of the flag were assembled members of the Lloyd Police Department, the Lloyd Volunteer Fire Department and Highland Veterans of Foreign Wars, standing in somber uniform dress with their hands in salute, as well and hundreds of local residents, Boy Scout troops and dignitaries.
Father Tom Lutz addressed the crowd with a prayer. “Bring peace to our heroic first responders, all of the innocent men, women and children who lost their lives to the September 11 attacks. Please bring comfort and healing to those that are still suffering from their losses, those who were injured, still suffering illness and grief…our hearts are with theirs. God of Peace, bring your peace to our world. Bring your love to those people whose hearts are filled with hate and anger…”
Supervisor Paul Hansut addressed the crowd. “I’m sure we all remember where we were when those terrible tragedies occurred,” he said, noting that he had finished the night shift as a City of Poughkeepsie police officer, and that his wife had just dropped their son off at preschool when she called him to say, “Something terrible has happened.”
“I turned on the TV just as the first tower collapsed into smoke. I saw another plane in the foreground and thought to myself, ‘What must those people be thinking as they saw what was happening beneath them?’ And then that very plane crashed into the second tower.”
Hansut then went on to talk about Colette Lafuente, who was then the mayor of Poughkeepsie. “She reported that her husband, Juan Lafuente [who worked as an information technology official for Citibank near the World Trade Center], had not returned home, nor had she heard from him after the attacks,” said Hansut. “Juan was a creature of habit and this had our mayor very concerned.”
Along with some other Poughkeepsie police officers, Hansut drove down to Ground Zero to search for Juan. “We parked a few blocks away and as we walked, all we saw were people hanging posters, flashing pictures of loved ones, crying. No matter where you went, if you needed a cold drink or a sandwich, someone would hand it to you. The dust and smoke and smell of death was everywhere. There was one small firehouse near the Ground Zero. There was no one inside, no firetrucks. There was just a gentleman out front who said to us, ‘They’re all gone.’ That’s the moment when I realized what a tragedy had occurred.”
It turned out that Juan had been having breakfast at the World Trade Center when the attacks occurred, and his body was never recovered. Hansut talked about Colette, who was the mayor of Poughkeepsie for eight years, a member of the county legislature, “a mother of four beautiful, intelligent daughters, as well as a grandmother, and one of the strongest women I have ever met and whom I’m proud to call a friend. I also learned that she is a Top Ten champion masters swimmer; but I’ve known Colette long enough to know not to ask what age group she swims in.”