On a morning when the sunny weather was eerily reminiscent of the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, West New York held a commemoration ceremony recognizing the second anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
The event was held at Donnelly Park at the corner of 60th Street and Boulevard East. Commissioners Sal Vega and Lawrence Riccardi were joined by Deputy Mayor Jose Miquelli and members of the West New York Police Department and the North Hudson Regional Fire and Rescue department in honoring the emergency services workers who were lost on that day. Also honored were the three victims of the attacks who hailed from West New York: William "Billy" Cashman, Michael Colbert and Paul R. Eckna.
West New York Police Director Joseph M. Pelleccio was also on hand and in a pre-ceremony interview said, "This ceremony is important to everyone – the whole country, not just West New York. We are remembering the victims of the most horrible thing to ever happen to this country." Continued Pelliccio, "This is very hard for me. As a veteran of two wars and of law enforcement, there is no way to really explain this. I hope we never have to see anything like this ever again."
West New York Police Deputy Chief Thomas O’Donnell acted as master of ceremonies and led the West New York Police Department Honor Guard in presenting the colors. The Memorial High School Marching Band was also on hand and played various patriotic songs including "Taps."
Said O’Donnell at the opening of the ceremony, "It is with the deepest emotion and reverence that we gather here today. It is now approaching almost the exact minute when the first terrorist-controlled plane struck the tower and changed all of us forever."
After a prayer was read by a police officer, a moment of silence was observed as 8:46 a.m. approached – the exact minute that the first hijacked airplane struck the North Tower of the World Trade Center. A lone trombonist from the Memorial High School Marching Band played "Taps" as heads bowed in solemn remembrance.
Director of Public Safety Lawrence Riccardi approached the podium to speak and delivered a direct yet poignant speech.
Said Riccardi, "Today is a day of remembrance, and if we all close our eyes, everyone can remember exactly where they were and what they were doing when they heard of the attacks. I was in Public School Number Three and a teacher came running up to me saying that a private plane had hit the World Trade Center. I went outside in time to see the second plane hit the other tower, and I remember saying to myself, ‘This is no accident’."
Continued Riccardi, "My son was in the city that day, working for Time-Life. I couldn’t get in touch with him and I panicked. I didn’t know what was going on or if he was all right. At around noon, he finally called me and said, ‘Dad, I’m OK, but I don’t think I’m going to make it home anytime soon. It’s really horrible over here.’ He finally made it home late that night, and when he walked in the door, no words were spoken. He just started crying. We didn’t know if it was tears of happiness for having made it home or sadness for what happened and what he had witnessed."
After the American flag was raised to half-staff and saluted, Deputy Chief O’ Thomas O’Donnell introduced Maggie Cashman, the widow of William Cashman, who was a passenger on Flight 93, the plane that crashed into a Pennsylvania field after the passengers overtook the hijackers. Cashman and a member of the West New York Police Department Honor Guard placed a wreath at the foot of the memorial fountain that was dedicated exactly one year ago, on September 11, 2002, in honor of the victims from West New York.
Said Cashman in a post-ceremony interview, "It’s like a bad dream. Every day is a constant reminder of what happened on that day. But we all have to move on and keep living as best we can."
Deputy Chief O’Donnell summed up the event when he said, "You face a day like this with mixed emotions. On one hand, you’re proud of our men and women in the armed forces, our police officers and firefighters, but you wake up on the day and remember all those that perished. For me, this year is worse than last year. I lost a very close friend who worked for the Port Authority Police Department."
Added O’Donnell, "But this is still a magnificent country to live in, the best country in the world, and I am proud to be an American."