By VINNIE BELLARDINI
Eighteen years ago today (September 11), a sunny morning quickly turned into one of the darkest days in human history – one that would drastically change the course of America and the rest of the world around it.
With the diligent work of members of local law enforcement, the city of Cortland last year put up its own 9/11 memorial in Courthouse Park, comprised of steel from the actual ground zero site, which is now propped up to resemble the twin towers. See photo here.
State Senator James Seward attended and spoke at the unveiling of the memorial last year. He was also in attendance at this morning’s ceremony, where he was joined by local officials, members of state and local law enforcement, and other members of the community.
The guest speaker this morning was Cortland native and retired Army National Guard Col. Kevin Forney, who was head of security at Ground Zero when the planes hit and set up a perimeter moments afterward.
Honored at the ceremony were four people who lost their lives in the attacks, each of whom had a connection to the community:
- Kevin Bracken was a fireman with Engine Co. 40 based in Manhattan’s Upper West Side. His brother, Bill, is a retired member of the Cortland County Sheriff’s Department.
- Amy King was a Flight Attendant on Flight 175, which hit the South Tower at 9:03 a.m. after being hijacked enroute from Boston-Los Angeles. King was honored by a friend of hers who attended SUNY Cortland.
- George Morell was working on the 105th floor of the North Tower, where he was a partner and vice president of his company’s mortgage department. His sister, brother-in-law and niece are Cortlandville residents.
- Louis Alvarez was a retired NYPD bomb detective, who died two months ago of illnesses related to his work at Ground Zero. Alvarez worked with Cortland County Legislator Paul Heider.
A moment of silence was observed in accordance with the rest of the country at 8:46 a.m., which is when the first plane (Flight 11) hit the North Tower of the WTC.
All public high schools in New York observed this moment of silence as well, under the direction of Gov. Cuomo.
Homer Village will hold its ceremony at 5:30 p.m. at their memorial next to the Village Fire Department, which also contains a steel beam from one of the World Trade Centers.
The guest speaker at that event will be Air Force Col. Kim Walsh who worked inside the Pentagon when it was attacked.
SUNY Cortland will also hold a ceremony at 7 p.m. on the steps of Corey Union.
Governor Cuomo directed flags at all state government buildings to be flown at half-staff today, in memory of the nearly 3,000 men, women and children who lost their lives 18 years ago.
See his statement below, along with those from other officials and representatives:
“On September 11, 2001, New York suffered the deadliest terror attack this nation has ever seen. But this horrific tragedy did not tear us apart; instead our state and the entire country united and emerged from our darkest hour as one in the name of freedom and democracy.We saw the best and the worst in humanity in that moment, and we will never forget those who lost their lives, including the selfless heroes who ran toward danger to help others. On behalf of the New York family, we honor the memories of these men and women, and we are eternally grateful for their sacrifice.”
Rep. Anthony Brindisi
“We can never forget the horrific acts of terror or the courageous acts of heroism we saw on September 11th. When terrorists flew planes into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and hijacked United Flight 93, our country changed forever. The bravery of our first responders, including the brave men and women who ran towards danger in New York, and the resilience of the survivors showed that the American spirit cannot be put out. Today, we honor both the living and the dead from that fateful day.”
Attorney General Letitia James
“Eighteen years ago, New Yorkers and Americans across the country were devastated by the terror attacks on September 11th. Today, and every day, we remember and honor all of those whose lives were taken from us that day and the countless first responders who courageously risked their lives to protect us. In the years since, New York has rebuilt, but we have never forgotten all those we lost and those we have lost in the years since. Today, we must stand together as one country.”
Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan:
“It’s hard to believe that it’s been 18 years since local families, and our state and nation were forever changed by the horrific 9/11 terrorist attacks. And, while we still rightly grieve for those who lost their lives that day, I will always carry with me the pride of New York’s heroic response to the evil that occurred. Nearly two decades later, America remains the greatest and freest country in the world, and our democracy and values continue to stand tall as a beacon for peace loving people across the globe. On this day and every day, let us pause to give thanks to our heroes and remember the victims and their families. 9/11 – We will never, ever forget.
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie
“Today people across the nation will pause to remember the thousands of lives tragically lost on 9-11. Our hearts still break when we remember these terrible events, and we extend our gratitude to the brave men and women who answered the call to serve during our nation’s darkest hour. Despite immeasurable loss and grief, New York was overcome with a spirit of unity and comforted by the kindness of strangers from across this great nation, and every corner of the the globe. We were forever changed. May we never forget those we lost, those who served, or the kindness and compassion that acted as a light in the darkness.”