MORRIS COUNTY — The weather held as first responders, public officials, and residents gathered under cloudy skies Sunday evening for Morris County’s Annual 9/11 Remembrance ceremony in observance of the 22nd Anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
People gathered around the Morris County 9/11 Memorial in Parsippany Township while the sounds of a classical guitar and flute, played by Darren O’Neill and Patricia Lazzara, filled the air. At 5:55 p.m. a color guard of police, fire and rescue, and emergency personnel began marching up West Hanover Avenue led by flag bearer Kevin Dunn, Deputy Fire Chief of the Randolph Fire Dept. Included in the procession were members of the Morris County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO), the Police Pipes and Drums of Morris County, the U.S. Naval Cadet Sea Corps of Picatinny Arsenal, and first responder agencies from throughout Morris County.
Keynote speaker Nick De Gregorio, a U.S. Marine Corps Veteran, raised and lowered the flag at the memorial with MCSO Capt. Walter Rawa, as U.S. Reps Mikie Sherrill and Tom Kean placed bouquets of red, white, and blue flowers. Deputy Fire Chief Dunn conducted the pledge of allegiance, while the Morris Choral Society sang the national anthem and Rev. Herman Scott read a special invocation.
“Our guest speaker could have taken a familiar, safe path in life. Instead, inspired by the events of 9/11 and knowing the challenges our country would face he traveled a difficult path. Becoming a Marine Corps infantry officer, deploying four times, and giving a decade of his life in service to our country,” said Morris County Commissioner Director John Krickus as he opened the ceremony.
Major De Gregorio, who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, was 16 years old and sitting in a New Jersey classroom when the terrorist attacks unfolded just 12 miles away. The events inspired him to enlist in the Marines after high school, and he was deployed four times into combat during his nine years of service.
“My mother and I walked up to the lookout point in our town to bear witness to the New York City skyline. What we found was much more than a landscape of wreckage and black smoke. Dozens of people were already there. They stood in tearful silence, acknowledging us with head nods as we all peered out to see what we did not want to see,” stated De Gregorio.
“Those of us on that lookout point went up there thinking we were searching for a glimpse of the aftermath, but I think we came back down realizing that what we had really been searching for was each other,” he added.
Parsippany resident Loretta Viglione read a poem written about her brother Tommy Sabella, who perished responding to the attacks. His crew, Engine 22, Ladder Company 13, made the first rescue trip to the Twin Towers. When he returned for a second rescue trip, Tower I collapsed, and the 44-year-old firefighter never made it out. He was among a group of firefighters from that team who died and were later designated the Yorkville 9 from the Upper East Side of Manhattan.
The ceremony included a candle-lighting vigil, which was conducted with a musical accompaniment: “The Last Rose of Summer,” a poem written by Irish poet Thomas Moore sung to the tune of a traditional Irish ballad.
“The poem laments the waning days of Summer, but touches more deeply on the importance of love in our lives and the loss of that love,” stated Commissioner Tayfun Selen as candles were being lit.
In keeping with Morris County’s 9/11 ceremony tradition, the names of each of the 64 people from Morris County who died in the attacks were read aloud, as a bell was struck by Morris County Fire Marshal James Davidson. The Morris County residents were among 2,977 people killed on 9/11, and all the victims’ names are etched into the Morris County Memorial.
The ceremony included a rendition of Amazing Grace, a 21-gun salute, and ended with Taps being played by Larry Schillings, N.J. State Director of Bugles Across America.
“We all, as Americans, must embrace our common identity more now than ever before. Remember, the cowardly acts that bring us together here, year after year, were attacks on all Americans and the free society by which we pursue our different paths in life to achieve our different goals,” said Commissioner Deborah Smith, in closing the ceremony.
Raindrops started to fall, just as the ceremony concluded.
Morris County thanks all the participants and residents who make the 9/11 ceremony possible each year. The dedicated support of our community members helps ensure the victims’ names always live on, and that we never forget the tragic events that occurred on that fateful day in our nation’s history 22 years ago.