“If you were alive on September 11, 2001 it was one of those days you will always remember,” said Saugerties Mayor William Murphy at a commemoration ceremony on Saturday, September 11 at Cantine Field in Saugerties, one of thousands of such ceremonies taking place across the country.
Murphy recalled that he was at work in his home office with his nine-month-old daughter. He heard on the Internet that a plane had struck the tower, but it was when the plane hit the second tower “I knew that our country was under attack,” he said. “I was at the television the rest of the day, watching all these horrific scenes.”
Murphy said he wondered how he could describe the attack to his children, “and I hope they never have to do the same thing some day.” He said he wondered whether there was a future for him and for his children; indeed for the country.
“Nine-eleven has changed our lives in so many ways,” Murphy said, including the increased inspections at airports, the possibility of his children having to go to war, as followed Pearl Harbor, he said.
Contrasting with the scenes of horror were the sights of people helping out strangers, all working together to get through the terror, Murphy said.
Stan O’Dell was a New York State police officer on September 11, 2001, and he was at the scene of the attack on the Twin Towers, he said. Since his retirement from the State Police, O’Dell said he has been a volunteer firefighter. He started his talk by saying it was “an honor to represent the 343 firefighters, 60 police officers and eight paramedics who bravely lost their lives doing what we do every day. These are people who run into danger while others flee.”
O’Dell recalled he received a message on his mobile phone that an airplane had struck the Twin Towers and he was to immediately report to headquarters. He was in Dutchess County and had to cross the bridge, and he wondered whether the bridge would even be there, or would it have been attacked. After setting up a command post, “we were taking calls for all kinds of additional threats – other towers, power plants, bridges, schools. Fortunately those things didn’t come to pass.”
O’Dell recalled the streets crowded with emergency vehicles the next day, and the piles of dust. There were thousands of responders going through the rubble, looking for bodies. “There were some machines there, but most of the work was done by hand, one clump of rubble, one bucket at a time.” He was then assigned to protect dignitaries and elected officials. “One of my most vivid memories was in the Javits Center when President Bush came with Governor Pataki and Mayor Giuliani. I was assigned a protective detail after the President met with the families of all the fallen first responders.” During Bush’s time at the center, a man walked up to him. Those guarding him moved forward, but then stepped back as the man, in tears, said to Bush, “Please find my brother.” O’Dell said he doesn’t know whether the brother was found, “but I can tell you that everything was done, there was nothing spared, to do so.
“For the first responders here, I share these memories not to make you sad, but to make you proud,” O’Dell said. “We remember the first responders and we remember the civilians who were just going about life, whether they were at work or on a plane. And those who had to walk in the toxic dust that we had to breathe. Don’t ever let this day be forgotten, don’t let those lives go in vain. Be proud of the service that you give; I am certainly proud of the service I gave and continue to give.”
“The first thing I want us to do is give a big ‘thank you’ to all our veterans and all our fire fighters and EMS. Let’s give them a round of applause,” said New York State Assemblyman Chris Tague. “On this 20th anniversary of the attacks upon our homeland in New York, Washington DC and Pennsylvania, we celebrate our triumph in the aftermath of that terrible tragedy.” The attackers had hoped to “break our spirit and make us afraid to stand up for our freedoms and those of others who wish for freedom around the world,” Tague said. The suicide attackers were wrong, “love for our country was only strengthened.
Our resolve to fight was made evident to our adversaries when countless people rushed to enlist in the war on terror. In the immediate after the attack, thousands of first responders, including people like our fire fighters and EMS police officers — all our emergency [personnel] rushed to the scene to help.”
At that time, a person did not feel like a Republican or a Democrat, Tague said. “People felt like Americans appreciating the liberty and the proud history we share as people of this nation.”
In the aftermath of 9-11, “we would do well to remember that we are strongest as a nation together when we come together as a nation. Regardless of our partisanship, our countrymen are our brothers and sisters.”
Introducing Michelle Hinchey, Tague said “I have a great deal of respect for this young lady that’s standing over here. She and I both represent you folks in the Legislature. We come from different parties, and we work together. And today, I have a bigger respect for Michelle Hinchey than I did even a week ago. She showed the true meaning of an American today. I’m a couple of years older than Michelle, and more out of shape than Michelle, but she and I were in a grueling parade today and I decided I would walk the whole way. That fellow American, that fellow legislator, wouldn’t leave me behind. She waited for me, throughout the whole parade, so she and I could walk together.”
This country has continued to become stronger since September 11, 2001, Tague said.
The placing of a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown in Cantine Field, the ringing of a bell and a firing squad and the playing of taps followed.
In his closing prayer, Chaplain James Lewis asked for remembrance of the people lost in the September 11 attack and of the members of the service divisions, who lost their lives trying to protect those around them.