North Bergen held their 20th anniversary of the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks, honoring those lives that were lost at a James J. Braddock Park ceremony.
By Daniel Ulloa/Hudson County View
U.S. Rep. Albio Sires (D-NJ-8) expressed how he remembers the day vividly.
“The confusion, the towers coming down, sometimes I’m driving to Washington and these memories pop into my mind of that dreadful day,” he said.
“We had a lot of heroes that day. We had our fire departments going, we had police and first aid rescue.”
He continued that when he returned home late that night, a couple was waiting to ask if he knew anything about their son who worked at the firm Cantor Fitzgerald on the 93rd floor of one of the towers.
“It was the most heart-wrenching evening because I didn’t have an answer for them. Nobody did. What happened 20 years ago changed the way we travel, changed the way we look at things,” he added, also noting that it was impossible to get into New York from New Jersey.
Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise also shared his memories on that tragic day.
“All of us remember exactly where we were, exactly when we heard. It wasn’t the age of cellphones and laptops and stuff. There weren’t that many phones around and I was trying desperately to get in touch with her [his daughter], Amy, in her school in Bayonne,” he began.
DeGise noted how difficult it was to travel and reunite with his daughters that day.
“All the roads were closed, the Pulaski Skyway, the Turnpike extensions, Route 3. Only emergency vehicles were allowed in … We woke up all of us numb, not knowing what was to happen next.”
He noted that the morning after, he could still see smoke emanating from the site of the World Trade Center wafting towards Brooklyn from his home in Jersey City.
“There was a real get together of people, of this common cause. We had an understanding we’re all in this together and if we’re going to get back at them, then we better do this all together,” the county executive recalled.
“They cheered first responders as they were going towards the site of the disaster. Veterans saw more and more ‘thank you for your service’ coming out. The United States became the United States on September 12th.”
He likened the pandemic to 9/11 and called for unity in defeating COVID-19.
“Why can’t everybody use the tools and weapons to win this war and do this together?” he said, lamenting partisan rhetoric.
State Senator (D-32)/North Bergen Mayor Nick Sacco said that like many, he thought the first plane could have hit the tower by accident.
“The next plane hit and we knew we were under attack. Our cell phones … went out. We were all cut off. Anyone who was now outside no longer could call in. It was probably the most eerie feeling to know we were under attack and not know from where or who was doing it,” he recalled.
“The next day if you stood here, you would see fighter planes hovering above, not flying back and forth, hovering, looking at the horizon., you could see them turning so they could watch the horizon to see if there were any other attacks coming so they could there and intercept.”
He also noted people held impromptu candlelight vigils outside their homes.
Sacco then read the names of four people from North Bergen Christopher Amaroso who was a police officer, along with Robert Cirri, Sal Edward Tieri, Marcos Gorra, and David LeMagne.
“There was mass hysteria throughout Jersey City, Weehawken. We had to help Port Authority close the tunnels,” noted Hudson County Sheriff Frank Schillari.
“We must never forget those brave first responders who gave their lives to save some lives. They couldn’t save them all. When they leave their home, they never know if they’re coming back.”
North Bergen Superintendent of Schools George Solter said that school age children weren’t around for 9/11 and it’s up to educators to explain to them the magnitude of the event.
“The students that we teach now, they weren’t alive when this happened. When we think about some of the new teachers were toddlers. Our job as educators is to keep the memory of the events and never forget the heroes of that day.”
Hudson County Board of Commissioners Chair Anthony Vanieri (D-8), who served as the master of ceremonies for the event, noted the county is planning to build a 9/11 memorial that will be placed in Braddock Park.
Assembly members Pedro Mejia and Angelica Jimenez (both D-32) were also present, as were Hudson County Democratic Organization Chair Amy DeGise, Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner, and West New York Commissioner Cosmo Cirillo.
North Bergen Commissioners Julio Marenco, Frank Gargiulo, and Allen Pascual attended as well.