“Every person has been affected in some way by that dark September day,” Deacon Hank Smith of Saint Mary of the Snow Catholic Church said in his opening homily at the 9/11 ceremony on Sunday, September 11 at Cantine Veterans’ Memorial Complex in Saugerties. “It still hurts from the loss of friends and relatives in that tragedy. However, we can heal as a nation, taking comfort from relatives and friends, Deacon Smith said. “Even when our world is falling apart, we have a God who never changes. He is the only one who can bring good from bad and joy from sorrow. He is the only one you can turn to in times of sorrow like 9/11.”
“As we recognize first responders in our community and in the world around us, let us pray first for those who respond to the danger to each one of you in this place today. Let us pray for all these brave men and women.” He reminded those present that they should thank the police, firefighters, EMTs and the many others who work tirelessly “to make this world a better place.”
“We gather together today in remembrance of every American life lost on September 11,” said State Senator Michelle Hinchey. “United in grief, with every family broken by the act of terror that transpired on that day and guided by the strength that has led our nation over the past 21 years. Inside each of us something changed that day. A spark of patriotism was ignited. We saw firefighters, police officers, medical professionals and members of our military rushing toward ground zero carrying the weight of a nation on their backs.”
Hinchey noted that many of the individuals who stepped forward to help in the rescue sustained life-threatening illness themselves as a result. Since the attack, many individuals have volunteered for the emergency services, and many young people have volunteered for military service.”
Hinchey’s speech was followed by the placing of a wreath at the Veterans’ by fire chiefs Scott Campbell of Saugerties, Sean Rafferty from Malden and John Heppner from Centerville. They were joined by Saugerties Police Chief Joe Sinagra and Diaz Ambulance EMS Brian Breithaupt. The ringing of a ceremonial bell, a firing squad and a rendition of “taps” followed.
In his closing benediction, Saugerties Police Department Chaplain James Louis said that “for all Americans, for all time, 9/11 will invoke a special meaning. A special moment in all of our history when the world as we knew it changed forever.”
What would the people who died on 9/11 say if they could speak to us? “”I believe they would say ‘let’s come together America, and forget about the nonsense’. They would say ‘on 9/11 it did not matter if you were black or white, it did not matter if you were Democrat or Republican, it did not matter who you were or what you were. It only mattered that we were Americans, and we were attacked’.”
Moderator Brian Martin concluded by thanking the people who attended the ceremony.
Following the ceremony, Saugerties Village Trustee Terry Parisian said he was pleased with the number of people who came to the ceremony. “It was a good turnout for a little town.”
Michael Corvin, who drove a bus into New York on the morning of September 11, 2001, recalled that it started out a beautiful day. As he pulled into a bus lane, he looked toward the New York skyline, “and I saw the World Trade Center in all its glory.” After letting the passengers off, Corvin took the bus to a parking area, where he cleaned it up. Another driver told him an airplane had hit the World Trade Center. “I had my portable radio on and the reporters were just starting: an airplane hit the World Trade Center. All of a sudden I was shaken up, thinking I hope the people got out.” It wasn’t yet clear that this was a deliberate attack. After cleaning up the bus, Corvin joined several other drivers at the Jacob Javitz Center, and as they talked about the first attack, “I was thinking about all the stories of death and destruction; from my parents who came to this country from Austria, and I was thinking about the death and destruction from the wars, and I was thinking, ‘this is awful’.”
When the second plane came, “it shook every building on the block,” Corvin said. “I watched it go downtown bang! into the World Trade Center.” The orange flame seared the area, “and I thought, ‘this is not happening.’ I wondered if I would ever get out of New York again.”
Everything was jammed; it took Corvin an hour to get a phone call through to his wife. The trip back seemed impossible, with streets and highways closed, but eventually Corvin was able to return the bus to the depot in Newburgh. On his way home, he passed through Times Square, “and there was not a light on; Times Square was completely dark; I had never seen it like that in my life.”
Corvin said he thinks about the experience from time to time, but “I am one of those who believe that this day should never, ever be forgotten because it was such an event, a world-wide event where something happened that affected all of us, in many different ways. Over the next few days I saw cars that belonged to my commuters. I found out that four of them were gone.”
Hinchey said she had spoken to a woman at the gathering who had had a lung taken out because of cancer; she was at ground zero. Stan O’Dell, who had been a New York State Police officer and responded to Ground Zero, said he has a scar on his back from the removal of a cancer. Cancer was a common affliction among those who were exposed to contaminated dust around the World Trade Center after the attack, he said.