On the 13th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, Highland resident Ulyses Williams addressed the crowd gathered for a commemorative ceremony outside Highland Fire Department Station No. 1. Standing within feet of the memorial monument created from a twisted artifact of metal from Ground Zero, Williams thanked the people of the Highland community for their support over the years since 2003, when his son, U.S. Army Sgt. Eugene Williams, 24, serving our country in the Army’s 2- 7th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division, lost his life in Iraq by the actions of a suicide bomber. With arms spread wide and a voice thick with emotion but strong and steady, Ulyses Williams — who has another son currently in the Army, Captain Eric Williams — brought the ceremony to a moving end with a heartfelt spiritual rendition of “God is Watching Over Me” that rose above the noise of nearby traffic and filled the darkening skies as well as listening hearts.
Town of Lloyd Supervisor Paul Hansut served as emcee of the ceremonies that opened with the Pledge of Allegiance led by members of Boy Scout Troop 70, Cub Scout Troop 70 and Girl Scouts from the Heart of the Hudson Rivers Edge Community. The National Anthem was sung by Jessica Avampato, followed by a release of white doves by Leo Bozydaj.
The birds circled overhead, changing formation several times and circling back repeatedly as Father Thomas Lutz of St. Augustine Church gave an Invocation, praying for the lives lost in the 9/11 attacks and its aftermath. Peter Miller, chief of Highland Hose No. 1, followed with a speech of remembrance and reminded the listeners that one of the issues that contributed to the difficulties of rescue after the attacks — that of insufficient communication power between the fire and police departments — is still a concern today. He cited a recent rescue at Highland Landing in which the only communication devices that were working between the police and fire departments were individual cell phones. Better equipment needs to be purchased, he said. “Our emergency equipment doesn’t work well enough to stand alone. This is money we can’t afford not to spend.” Our proximity to New York City and the growing threat from groups like ISIS should cause us all to be diligent, he added. “Anything to avoid another 9/11 is a testament to those who gave their all.”
Town of Lloyd Police Chief Daniel Waage spoke of the heroism of not only the first responders who ran toward danger to help but of the office workers and strangers who helped survivors get out of the buildings on 9/11. He remembered the passengers on the airplanes, the construction workers who helped put things together again afterward and the military personnel who today fight the war on terrorism. “These heroes did it because it was Americans helping Americans, with no thought of race, creed or political correctness. These types of acts of heroism are committed daily across the nation. They may not grab the headlines, but they occur. It’s at times like these that our heroes shine brightest.”
The 20th Century Limited Senior Drum and Bugle Corps performed “Mansions of the Lord; God of our Fathers,” followed by a Benediction from St. Augustine’s Father Lutz and a salute from the American Legion Lloyd Post 193 Honor Guard and Firing Squad and the Veterans of Foreign Wars Lloyd Post 6534 Honor Guard. Two buglers from the Corps, Joseph Avampato, Jr. and Peter Maroldt, then played “Taps” in a sweet sort of call-and-response manner across the parking lot.
Also represented at the ceremony were the American Legion Auxiliary, American Legion Riders of Ulster County Chapter 1298, Highland Hose Company No. 1, Highland Hose Company No. 1 Auxiliary, Town of Lloyd Police Department, the Highland Leathernecks (John Vertullo, Jr.) and the Oremus and Williams families.