Paltzonians gather at September 11th Memorial to honor the fallen, 16 years later

New Paltz Chief of Police Joseph Snyder hugs Master of Ceremonies Butch Dener.

A Ceremony of Remembrance was held on Monday morning at the New Paltz Community September 11th Memorial to mark the 16th anniversary of the Al Qaeda attack on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Butch Dener, the community activist who spearheaded the fundraising effort to establish the Memorial vest-pocket park next to Village Fire Station #2 at the corner of North Putt Corners Road and Henry W. DuBois Drive, served as master of ceremonies. About 50 citizens attended the commemorative event, including mayor Tim Rogers, town supervisor Neil Bettez, councilman Dan Torres and Lorrie Morse, an aide to congressman John Faso.

The ceremony, which began at 8:30 a.m. and lasted less than an hour, was structured around the times when the two hijacked airliners crashed into the North and South Towers of the World Trade Center. At 8:46 a.m. and again at 9:03 a.m., New Paltz Fire Department chief Dave Weeks and firefighter Joe Miller pulled the cord on a vintage bell that had been preserved from one of the Department’s old firetrucks, while the crowd stood in respectful silence. Then sergeant first class John Castleman, a bugler from the US Military Academy and a member of the West Point Band, twice played “Taps.”

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Rabbi Yitzhak Hecht of Chabad of Ulster County gave the invocation. After praying for protection for all Americans, and especially first responders, Rabbi Hecht urged the attendees to “take revenge” on the perpetrators of the 9/11 killings by “liv[ing] life more like an American: with compassion, with love, with giving to others.

Beneath the thriving Tree of Remembrance that he recalled having planted as a “scraggly” young sapling on the site in 2002, along with the late Carmine Liberta, Dener recounted the history of the Memorial and thanked many of those who helped in its creation. Among those acknowledged were architect Rick Alfandre, sculptor Craig Shankles, Weidner Memorials, KC Fabrications and Masseo Landscaping, as well as financial supporters Dr. David Mesches and his wife Betty, both of whom were on hand for Monday’s ceremony.

Dener also recalled the “unthinkable horror” of the events of September 11, 2001, which he said were “burned into our memories.” He praised the courage of the first responders who rushed to the scene, the endurance of those who worked at Ground Zero afterwards and the resilience of the American people, especially the residents of New York City. Dener compared the trials of that fateful day with the natural disasters that befell Texas and Florida in the past weeks, citing several local residents who had headed to the hardest-hit areas to assist with recovery efforts. “All these years later, we still have our homegrown heroes,” he noted. “It was people like you that brought people together in New York on that day.”

The ceremony ended with an informal procession of attendees approaching the granite memorial stone that supports the American “Flag of Remembrance” inscribed with the names of approximately 3,300 victims of the 9/11 attacks. One by one they placed small rocks atop the monument in accordance with the Jewish memorial tradition of leaving a symbol of one’s visit atop a gravestone, as a recording of Ray Charles’ stirring rendition of “America the Beautiful” rang out.

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