Every time Nancy Gallagher comes to the new Secaucus Public Library, she stops to pray at the town’s memorial to the Secaucus residents who died in the World Trade Center attack on Sept. 11, 2001.
She prays for her dead husband. She prays for her son. She prays for the six residents who perished that day. And she prays for people to find common sense.
Her husband wasn’t a victim of the attack. He didn’t perish among the falling debris of the two collapsing towers. And yet, because he (William E. Gallagher) had worked at the World Trade Center before his death in 1984, the attack and its aftermath made Nancy Gallagher feel as if he had.
The long road to personal recovery seemed to halt briefly during that terrible time two years ago, and made her understand in a way most people couldn’t how terrible the survivors of that attack had felt.
That is why she came to the Sept. 11 memorial ceremonies last week. That is why she sat up front struggling to contain the tears.
Coming to the event, surrounded by several hundred people of good faith, she felt as if she wasn’t alone.
"My husband worked on the 63rd floor," she said, struggling to keep the emotion out of her voice as around her town officials and residents gathered to mark the occasion. The memorial was draped in purple and black bunting while six red, white and blue candles burned on a beam that had been recovered from one the towers. Someone – mostly likely a child – had put four pink and white carnations on the beam near the candles, their stems wrapped in wrinkled aluminum foil.
For Nancy, there were too many similarities between those who died in the attack and her husband’s death. He died next to her in bed from a rare disease he never knew he suffered from, leaving Nancy to take care of their 2-year-old son.
"It has been hard on my son," she said. "He asks about and thinks about his father all the time."
A resident of Secaucus for 15 years, Nancy did not know any of the local victims, but knew a victim in the church she attends in Hawthorne, N.J.
"He left a wife and three kids," she said.
Over the last two years, Nancy has thought about the disaster a lot, about how misguided the people were who carried out the attacks.
"They believed they would go to heaven if they did this," she said. "We have to stop listening to people and having them tell us how to think."
In reflecting on the matter, she said she believed too many people needed to think for themselves and not become consumed with power. She said she prays frequently for this and for the victims of the World Trade Center.
Prayer was one of the ways she recovered from her husband’s death in 1984, and from the painful reminder of that death on Sept. 11. In coming to the Memorial for the World Trade Center victims, she feels as if she had a place to go where she could pray for her husband as well.
She said recovery from a loss like theirs takes time, and she said people should pay more attention to their loved ones.
"We never know when someone will die," she said. "I try to do good things for people every day. I try to sew seeds of goodness. And I think that’s what we should all do."
An employee of the Kessler Institute, Nancy has seen suffering, but she said she and her son, Steven, have made good strides.
Ceremony drew hundreds
About 200 people attended the memorial service Thursday. It marked the second anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center and the six Secaucus residents who perished there: Arlene T. Babakitis, Richard J. Cudina, Nancy E. Perez, Kenneth A. Simon, Steven Strobert, and Michael A. Tanner.
Fifth grade Students from Clarendon and Huber Street Schools also participated, with Matthew Belen, Leila Yang and Alexxis Corcoran leading the Pledge of Allegiance, while Monica Shterenberg, Briana Charles and Kendyl Voli read the names or essays on the event.
Immediate family members were not on hand for the local ceremony. But numerous others involved in the rescue efforts and in local support were. Along with prayers from Rev. Msgr. Donald E. Guenther of the Immaculate Conception Church and Rev. Will Henkle of the First Reform Church, Mayor Dennis Elwell spoke of the memorial and the need for the town to remember. Elwell, in looking back, said Sept. 11, 2001 was a day that changed many lives forever.
"Today we remember those who lost their lives, we do it with children, with symbols, and we hope that the old of us pass the young ones will never forget," Elwell said. "Certainly the families that were touched, who lost, will never forget in their time on this earth."
But he said the ceremonies are not so much for the dead as for the living.
"Those that are lost are fine. They are with their God. It is those that are left behind who have to deal with the tragedy, the loneliness and all the problems that evolve from it," he said. "The magnitude of the loss is almost inconceivable."
He said it is very important to have children at the memorial so to carry on the memory and traditions, and that people here should not forget that there are young people overseas engaged in the war.
"Hopefully through the education of children, something of this magnitude will never happen again," Elwell said.