Many hundreds of residents gathered outside New Rochelle City Hall last night for a moving observance of the tenth anniversary of 9/11, including speeches from Police and Fire officials, musical performances and a video tribute to the ongoing work at Ground Zero.
I offer my thanks to the many individuals and organizations that contributed time and energy to organizing the program, particularly Peter Parente and Kathy Gilwit. I am especially grateful that we were joined by Heidi Markenson, Catherine McErlean Francese, and Bernadette Princiotta — New Rochelle residents, each of whom lost a close family member ten years ago.
Last Friday, prior to the ceremony, about a hundred volunteers, many of them Boy Scouts, planted 2,977 flags on the City Hall lawn — one for each person lost on 9/11. The sight of the flags is surprisingly powerful. I encourage you to take a look before they are removed.
I had the privilege last night of offering remarks on behalf of the City. In case you are interested, a transcript of those remarks follows.
Remarks of Mayor Noam Bramson
September 11, 2011
Ladies and Gentlemen: good evening. Allow me to begin by thanking Peter Parente and the United Veterans Memorial and Patriotic Association for their leadership in upholding this tradition tonight and for several years. My thanks also to our Fire, Police, Public Works and Communications staff, and to all who worked so hard to organize this evening’s commemoration.
It is my duty to introduce the dignitaries who are present – and I apologize if I miss anyone.
From the City, Council Members Louis Trangucci, Albert Tarantino, Jared Rice, Richard St. Paul, Barry Fertel, and Marianne Sussman. City Manager Chuck Strome. And City Court Judges, Susan Kettner, Gail Rice and Tony Carbone.
Our State Assembly Members, Amy Paulin and George Latimer. County Clerk and former Mayor Tim Idoni. County Legislators Jim Maisano, Judy Myers, and Sheila Marcotte. Representing many communities of faith, the President of the Inter-Religious Council, Carl Procario-Foley. And on behalf of our Congresswoman Nita Lowey, Marc Raifman.
Most importantly, I would like to recognize three New Rochelle residents whose presence this evening is especially meaningful:
Heidi Markenson, whose lost her husband Jeff Wiener on 9/11. She is now married to Dave Markenson, and they have three children.
Catherine McErlean Francese, who lost her brother John McErlean, then 39 and the father of four. She’s here with her husband Carl.
And Bernadette Princiotta, who lost her brother, Fire Fighter Vincent Princiotta, of Ladder Company 7 in Manhattan.
We are deeply honored that they would share this occasion with us, and I ask you to join me in acknowledging their presence.
We think also of the families of Alex Ciccone and Amy O’Doherty and David Silver, of fifteen alumni of Iona College, and of all others with a direct connection to our city.
New Rochelle may be several miles from the World Trade Center, but September 11th impacted every American, and especially every New Yorker, and so it is right and fitting that we should gather tonight as neighbors and friends in solemn observance and common purpose.
Ten years ago, 2,977 men, women and children woke to a brilliant sunrise on a crystal clear morning – the last they would ever see.
Even after a decade of reflection, the sheer number – almost 3,000 – remains too high to fully comprehend. Look at the flags laid out upon this lawn. Beautiful, almost joyful, until we remember what they represent.
A flag for every soul. Enough to fill our Council chamber ten times over. Enough almost to fill every seat in every classroom at New Rochelle High School.
And don’t forget each one an individual. Flesh and blood . . . and love. Too many to bear.
Yet the real measure of loss is even larger. Because, in a sense, each flag stands for many lives connected. Husbands and wives, children and grandchildren, friends and colleagues left behind to grieve. Fire Fighters and Police Officers who were like brothers and sisters.
We must add the soldiers killed fighting the Taliban and the agents of terror. We must add the emergency service workers struggling with illness after laboring at Ground Zero.
And still the count is too low, for imagine, also, the children and grandchildren that might have been. Should have been.
In truth, a wound so deep never fully heals. Instead it becomes a permanent part of who we are.
But that’s not the whole truth.
There is another truth, too. The truth that our spirit endures.
Ten years later, towers rise anew at Ground Zero. Ten years later, families once broken are re-made in new forms. Ten years later, infants have grown into children, and children to adults.
Ten years later, the architect of 9/11 lies in the bottom of the ocean, delivered at long last to the justice of the Almighty.
Confidence comes again. Purpose comes again. Not through denial of fear or grief, but through perseverance over them.
That is the lesson of Heidi and Catherine and Bernadette, and all others here now for whom this is a personal occasion and not just a civic one, and who inspire us with their strength and resilience.
That is the lesson of the First Responders standing among us who would, to a person, demonstrate the same heroism as their fallen brethren if the terrible call had come to them.
That is the lesson of the unity we feel tonight.
Alone, any one of us may be mastered by fate – as 2,977 human beings were ten years ago. Together, as a people united, we make our own fate.
So let us honor in memory those who are gone, honor in deed those with us now, and honor in purpose those still to come. And may we uphold in our community of New Rochelle and all across our nation the values of liberty and equality and charity, undimmed and unbroken, that have made – and still make – America a light to the world.
God bless New Rochelle. God bless the United States. And God bless all people of good will.