It has been seventeen years since the tragic events of September 11, 2001, and in a solemn ceremony Tuesday afternoon, Westchester County paid tribute to every life that was lost on that day. Standing beneath “The Rising,” the County’s beautiful 9/11 Memorial, surrounded by dignitaries, clergy, colleagues, local residents and families of the fallen, County Executive George Latimer commemorated the Westchester residents who passed on that day. Latimer also made special mention of the first responders, as well as those who have died from 9/11 related illness since the attacks.
“Seventeen years ago today, I remember exactly where I was standing and what I was doing when I learned the twin towers had been struck. I’m sure many of you do, too. Without hesitation, police, firefighters and EMT’s rushed to ground zero to help save as many lives as they could. They were heroes - but in doing so, many gave of their own lives. At this time of great unrest in our country it is an opportunity to unite us, and bring us all together to remember this important day, ” Latimer said.
Emcee Tom Kaminski, a WCBS880 Traffic Reporter who was reporting from a helicopter as the twin towers were hit, recalled the morning of 9/11: “While I was a reporter that day, I was also a friend and a New Yorker. While life will never be the same – it shouldn’t. We live, we change and we grow. Standing here under this beautiful sculpture of “The Rising” – it reminds us that we must always be rising and lifting. But we must also remember where we started, and the base of who we are.”
Chairman of the Westchester County Board of Legislators Benjamin Boykin said, “We gather today, as we do every September 11th, to commemorate the lives of the Westchester residents and former residents taken from us on that terrible day 17 years ago. We also remember the many lives claimed by related illnesses over the years – the courageous men and women who worked tirelessly in that toxic mess to find the fallen. We join as one community with all their families. We can never feel the same emptiness and absence you feel, but we hope that by sharing your grief, we can make your burden just a little bit lighter.”
The ceremony included the presentation of colors, led by the Westchester County Police Department’s Ceremonial Unit Color Guard. Pipes and drums of the Police Emerald Society of Westchester County followed, along with the Civil Air Patrol. Students from the Valhalla Union Free School District led the Pledge of Allegiance, and Concordia College’s Brass Quartet played. A commemorative wreath was laid on the “Beam of Remembrance,” a steel beam that was pulled from the ashes of the World Trade Center, and dedicated to the County as a lasting reminder of our nation’s sacrifice and strength on that fateful day.
The names of those who were lost, as displayed on the “Circle of Remembrance,” were read aloud by elected officials. Latimer added, “In the years that followed the attacks, the number of first responders who lost their battles to 9/11 related illness has grown exponentially. My administration is now looking into ways to include those names at this memorial site, so that they too can be honored and remembered.”