By NANETTE LoBIONDO GALLOWAY
MARGATE – The Margate City Fire Department held its 20th anniversary 9/11 Memorial Service under a brilliant blue sky like the one on Sept. 11, 2001, when terrorists attacked the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., using passenger airplanes as bombs. Two of the airplanes brought down the Twin Towers, while a third put a deadly gaping hole in the government building that serves as the center of the U.S. military services. A fourth plane never made it to its destination – the U.S. Capitol. Instead, the passengers on the hijacked plane united to storm the cockpit to thwart the evil deed, landing in a grassy field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
Members of the city’s public safety services joined residents and dignitaries to recall that fateful day and vow to “Never Forget.”
Mayor Michael Becker said he was on his second day working at the Colmar Center, when a hardware store employee called to him to come up to the second floor to see the horrors unfolding in New York City.
“I got up there just as the second plane hit the tower. That is something I will never forget,” he said.
Former NJ Sen. William Gormley, who has never missed a Margate 9/11 service, said he was on his front porch speaking with a friend when someone called him to turn on the TV.
“It was a shock seeing the centerpiece of the world’s economy under attack. Everyone in that building were our soldiers that morning,” he said.
Gormley noted that about 750 New Jersey commuters were in the building performing significant work in the field of finance.
“All that they had achieved was taken away in an instant,” he said. “The thousands of people who worked on the site for months afterward didn’t realize the effect it would have on their health. It was horrible, but we learned to come together. With a unified America, those terrorists don’t stand a chance.”
Deputy Fire Chief Pat Armstrong explained that when a firefighter dies, his comrades ring the “Four Fives,” the tapping of a bell four times in five increments, while Firefighter Joseph Costa rang the bell at the front of the department’s ladder truck.
Fire Chief Dan Adams noted the weather was similar that day and “even the surf was upon us like on Sept. 11.”
“I was home playing with my 2-year-old son, when my wife called out to me to say the World Trade Center was struck and on fire. We were glued to the TV for hours watching the tragedy unfold,” he said, recalling the looks on the faces of the firefighters walking into the towers.
“They knew they might not go home. They made that sacrifice and upheld their oath,” he said.
Several Margate firefighters went to New York hoping to save lives, he said.
“They went to save lives only to find that there were no lives left to save,” he said. “If it ever happened again, each of us would do what we can to make a difference.”
He noted that Firehouse No. 1 was being rebuilt after the flooding of Hurricane Sandy in 2013, and that the department added two medallions at the top of the façade – one says 9/11 and the other 343 – the number of firefighters who died in the massacre.
One by one, firefighters stepped up to the microphone to recalled the timeline of incidents, starting with the first plane hitting the North Tower. They continued:
- 2,919 people were murdered on Sept. 11, 2001
- 343 were New York City firefighters
- 23 were New York City police officers
- 27 were from the Port Authority Police Department
- 181 people were killed at the Pentagon
- 93 people perished on Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pa.
Father Chris Bakey of Holy Trinity Parish remembered the phone call made by the daughter of a parishioner who relayed a message to her only relative – her mother – to a 9-1-1 dispatcher. It was the longest of all calls recorded that morning, and the dispatcher stayed on the line for 24.5 minutes, he said.
“’Tell my mom I love her and that she is the best mother in the world,’” Fr. Bakey said. “God gave her the grace to speak to the operator who stayed on the line.”
Fr. Bakey said that if every person in the world had respect for each and every other person, there would be peace and harmony in the world.
“You have the absolute right not to be murdered, and I have the absolute duty to never take a life,” he said.
Becker said the annual gathering keeps alive the memory of those who perished 20 years ago.
“We can never forget what happened that day. It can happen again,” he said.
Commissioner Maury Blumberg thanked those who departed from their daily routine to pray for the victims of 9/11, who “died by the hand of evil and hate.”
“Only love can conquer hate. Be guided by love, compassion and hope,” he said. “Love and a positive attitude can make the world a better place for our children. We need to teach our children kindness and tolerance, so this history cannot be allowed to happen again.”
Copyright Mediawize, LLC 2021