2022 marks the sixth year that the Sept. 11 ceremony has been held at the Town of Owego’s 9/11 Memorial in Hickories Park.
Master of Ceremonies and Memorial Day Chairman, Jim Raftis, Sr. stated that the theme of the remembrance service was to, “Never forget our 9/11 victims of terrorism,” and, “To honor the bravest of the fire and emergency services, and the finest of police service.”
Raftis recognized several Tioga County firefighters and EMS, some of who were in attendance, and who responded to Ground Zero after Sept. 11, 2001.
Emergency service personnel, local police, and members of the public attended the ceremony. OFD’s Ahwaga Ladder Company No. 5 displayed the American Flag by hoisting it via an aerial truck ladder.
The V.F.W. Post 1371 Honor Guard, led by bagpiper Pete Ziolkowski, posted the colors.
Andrea McBride performed the National Anthem and Pastor Brian Scanlon of Sword and the Spirit Christian Fellowship offered the invocation.
OFD Lieutenant, John Hitchings, rang the fireman’s bell to signify the times of the attacks.
Raftis stated, “Ringing of bells is a powerful reminder of the largest loss of life on American soil and the greatest loss of rescue personnel in American history.”
Speakers at the ceremony included Town of Owego Supervisor, Donald Castellucci; 124th District Assemblyman Christopher Friend; this writer; and Town of Owego Deputy Supervisor and V.F.W. member, Dean Morgan.
Castellucci remarked, “It is the responsibility of our generation to make sure that the next generation never forgets.”
Castellucci said he was dedicating this Sept. 11 to individuals who are currently suffering from illness, along with the victims and those who have since passed away due to related circumstances from 9/11.
Castellucci noted that an ongoing impact of the 9/11 attacks still being felt today are those individuals who are struggling with illness. He shared that last year he lost a friend, a 9/11 responder, to cancer, and then added that a neighbor, who was at Ground Zero, is now dealing with a second bout of cancer.
NYS Assemblyman Christopher Friend remarked, “After that fateful day, an unparalleled sense of patriotism took hold, and out of the darkest of times a sense of hope started to emerge across the nation,” adding, “The patriotism we saw then and what we’re seeing today, I hope we can reflect on those moments and continue to work together in the future.”
This writer reflected on a recent trip that I made with my husband to the Flight 93 National Memorial, located in Shanksville, Pa. United Flight 93 was the only flight hijacked that failed to reach the intended target, and it was the crew and passengers’ courageous efforts that thwarted the terrorist plan.
The visit featured touring the extensive Visitor Center Complex and hiking a trail around the perimeter of the grounds, which included a stop at the Wall of Names. Forty passenger and crew names are etched on eight-foot high white-marble panels, a single panel for each name. We also stopped at the Tower of Voices, a 93-foot tall musical instrument holding 40 wind chimes, and a touching way to memorialize the Flight 93 heroes.
“A section of etched fence overlooking the crash site reads, ‘A common field one day, a field of honor forever.’ It is peaceful and serene, and indeed a field of honor.”
While inside the Visitor’s Center, it was hard not to shed a tear as we listened to recorded messages of emotional goodbyes from the passengers. An exhibit piece that stood out was a commendation to Somerset County, Pa. fire and emergency personnel who placed themselves in danger to help during the crisis.
Morgan remembered Derek James Statkevicus, an Apalachin native and Eagle Scout who lived in Norwalk, Conn., and was employed by KBW Bank. The firm had offices located on the 86th floor of the World Trade Center, South Towers, and where Derek lost his life on Sept. 11, 2001.
Morgan placed a wreath near a granite bench previously dedicated to Derek in 2016, and which is now an integral piece of the 9/11 Memorial in Hickories Park.
At the conclusion of the ceremony Hitchings rang the final bells, the Honor Guard delivered a rifle salute, Steve Palinosky performed “Taps,” and Ziolkowski played “Amazing Grace.”