They came, as they come every year, but this year with a renewed sense of loss.
Many members of the community who were present at the 9/11 memorial ceremonies at Carpenter Field in Chester marveled that it was 20 years since the terrorist attack on our country — an event that still felt so raw, an event imprinted forever in the minds and memories of those who were there or saw it unfold on television screens.
Whisper words of comfort
And yet, there was comfort, too. Comfort in the presence and words of our religious leaders and in seeing the community come together.
Rabbi Pesach Burston, co-director of Chabad of Orange County, could not be present but asked Lynn Berenberg to read what he had prepared. It said, in part:
“As we mark 20 years, we reflect on the horrors of that tragic day – as well as the triumphs.
“We reflect on the things that were taken from us on 9/11: the lives lost, the families broken, the collective pain of our nation and the need for heightened security. We also continue to pray for those today battling 9/11-related illnesses.
“We also reflect on the things the terrorists could not take from us: Our American pride and values. They destroyed towering edifices of steel and concrete, but the foundation upon which our country was built remained intact. They could destroy the tallest buildings, but our moral rectitude stands taller. They cruelly ended thousands of lives, but our commitment to life itself shines brighter.
“Darkness cannot be countered with more darkness; it can only be dispelled with light. The terrorists sought to break our spirit with an evil we never imagined, we need to combat that by uniting with similarly unimaginable love.”
Berenberg herself offered this: “We have all been touched in some way, and I’m sure if I ask anyone, they will remember exactly where they were at that time.”
Rev. Erin Moore of the First Presbyterian Church in Chester said, in part:
“May we never forget that in the chaos, the pain, the heartbreak and the horror the actions of many the myriad of helpers and images of your love being displayed through firefighters, police officers, clergy of all kinds, office works and ordinary citizens.
“As we stand with those who mourn and cannot stop mourning we ask that you give comfort. Strengthen those who struggle with questions that remain unanswered. Assure those who worry that they should have said or done something differently that you gather up all the fragments of our lives, bless and use them in ways that nourish.”
Father Chris Argano of St. Columba’s Church and the Rev. Mother Claire Lofgren of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church also offered words of solace and comfort.
Krista Bucci gave beautiful voice to the National Anthem. Chester Academy’s band performed admirably, as always. And local scouts gave brief yet touching statements and laid flowers at the foot of the memorial to the Twin Towers.
Members of the community spoke with The Chronicle:
“I can’t talk without crying,” recalled veteran Bruce Green. “My daughter worked in the Trade Center. That day she was off to see a customer, so she wasn’t there. My other daughter was at 42nd and 6th Avenue, and through her window, she could see the towers. And I was watching it. And I cry and I don’t care.”
Anna Mahmoud: “Nine-eleven was a horrible, horrible day. I remember the goodness that came out and all the people that came together, no matter what their background was, what their religion was. We were all together, helping each other, mourning together. And I think that definitely makes us stronger; I really believe that to this day, twenty years later. That gives me satisfaction. I know that there is a God and he is looking out for us and he cares for us.”
Judge Carol Klein: “I’m one of the people who yearned for 9/12. I actually was primary judge - doing the primaries as a judge - and I was in the (Goshen) courthouse and we were trying to figure out what to do. The first plane went in and then I called the Board of Elections and said, ‘I think I’d better go over there, because they had not called it off.’ I stayed there and then I went to Burke Catholic High School, where my daughter was and they said, ‘You can’t tell her anything.’ I said ‘I’m taking her home.’ I took her home and I stayed home with her and watched the news. It was surreal. They didn’t hold the primaries, obviously.”
When asked if she thought we were safer today, Judge Klein said, “I think there’s so much evil in this world, but there are so many good people as well. I don’t know.
Town of Chester Police Chief Dan Doellinger: “Lynn Morris, whose name is on the memorial, was my sister’s best friend, so to me it means more than just the first responder aspect to it. So I had some personal loss, and I was also acquainted with as some of the first responders who lost their lives that day, as well. I always remember them.
“To me it’s an important day; I’ve only missed one of these ceremonies in twenty years and it was because my daughter was born two days earlier and I was at the hospital with a newborn. I’ll always continue to be here and make sure my kids are here and that they know why they’re here, as well.
The Chronicle asked two Chester high school students, born after the attacks, what they knew of them.
Krista Bucci: “I know a lot of people who lost loved ones; they must have been in shock that day. It’s just terrible and I can’t believe that twenty years already passed.”
Tanya Sinha: “In school we learn a lot about (9/11) and we have a moment of silence in school, too. I learned from school, from teachers and through the community. I don’t remember exactly who said it, but somebody said everybody remembers exactly where they were, what they were doing and how they found out.
“We didn’t live it; obviously, we’ll never understand it. But I feel like, through other people, you learn more and more.”