High school hosts day of unique guest speakers

Secaucus High School held its first annual Day of Respect, Remembrance, and Reflection on Feb. 23. Students throughout the high school had the opportunity to hear about the challenges life posed to each of several guest speakers, and to gain an appreciation for their perseverance in addressing their challenges and ultimately making the world a better place.
The day’s guest roster included Mark Barden, who lost his son Daniel to the senseless tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and who helped create Sandy Hook Challenge, an organization that aims to ensure no other child loses their life to gun violence. Gary Smiley, a retired member of the New York City Fire Department, shared his experiences as a rescuer of 97 individuals during the World Trade Center bombing of 1993 and later attempting to rescue individuals from the 9/11 attacks at the WTC, until getting buried under rubble. Smiley was awarded 27 medals for his heroism and bravery. Fellow 9/11 survivor Brian Branco, a worker on the 77th floor of the WTC, shared details of his escape from the building on that fateful day.
Muhlenberg College Class of 2008 Graduate Jacy Good was on her way home from her graduation day when the car she was riding in was hit by a truck swerving to avoid a distracted driver making a left turn on a red traffic light. Jacy’s parents were killed instantly in the crash. Today Jacy suffers from brain damage and limited use of the left side of her body. She and her college sweetheart and current husband, Steve Johnson, established the “Hang Up and Drive” initiative, which encourages drivers not to use their cell phones in any capacity when driving.
Congenital amputee Dave Stevens regaled the students with a video presentation of him playing minor league baseball, college football, and ultimately trying out for the Dallas Cowboys despite his handicap. Today Stevens is a successful broadcaster who has traveled the nation covering sporting events.
World War II veteran Alan Moskin spoke about encountering bigotry and racism as a young soldier in basic training, and ultimately participating in the liberation of Gunskirchen Concentration Camp in May of 1945. (See related brief below.)

Join Project Linus on March 5 and help children in local hospitals

The Secaucus Public Library is hosting Project Linus Make-a-Blanket Day on March 5. The event is held every year as an opportunity for the community to be involved with the activities of the Hudson/Bergen NJ chapter of Project Linus and provides a way for local residents to help children in local hospitals.
Project Linus is a 501c3 nonprofit organization with the mission to provide love, a sense of security, warmth and comfort to children who are seriously ill, traumatized, or otherwise in need through the gifts of new, handmade blankets and afghans, lovingly created by volunteer “blanketeers.” For more information call (201) 391-0102.

Library book swap event is March 5

Bring gently used books, DVDs and CDs to the Secaucus Library’s book swap, and trade them in for “new to you” materials. The event on Saturday, March 5 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Story Tower is open to library users of all ages. For more information, email Library Director Jenifer May at

WWII concentration camp liberator shares his experiences with HS students

The entire student body of Secaucus High School received a very special history lesson in the form of a presentation from World War II veteran and concentration camp liberator Alan Moskin, who visited Secaucus High School as part of the school’s Day of Respect, Remembrance, and Reflection.
The auditorium was packed with 565 students as Moskin, 89, shared his experiences in the United States Army during World War II. Drafted into military service at the age of 18, he served from September 1944 through August 1946 as a member of the 66th Infantry, 71st Division, as part of General George Patton’s 3rd Army.
Moskin’s outfit engaged in combat through France, Germany, and Austria. On May 4, 1945 his company participated in the liberation of the Gunskirchen Concentration Camp, a subcamp of Mauthhausen. In his extremely moving and graphic talk, Moskin recounted with vivid detail the horror of seeing skeleton-like bodies, experiencing the stench of the death and dying among the squalid living conditions at the concentration camp, and the look of fear and death on the faces of the prisoners. Moskin also addressed the bigotry and racism he experienced on an ongoing basis as a young soldier going through basic training.
Numerous high school students and staff came up to Moskin after his hour-long presentation and thanked him for his time in service, for his work in World War II, and for taking the time to address the school faculty and students.
“It was an absolute delight having Alan Moskin present at our high school,” said Secaucus Interim Superintendent of Schools Kenneth Knops. “Certainly his presentation today will leave an imprint on the minds of all who were fortunate to hear his talk this morning.”

12th annual Guma Foundation Casino Night is Feb. 27

The Guma Foundation will host its 12th annual Casino Night on Saturday, Feb. 27 at LaReggia’s Restaurant in the Meadowlands Plaza Hotel, 40 Wood Ave. Tickets to the event, which starts at 7 p.m., are $125 per person and include an evening of casino-style gaming with casino chips, live music by The Fez, an open bar and buffet, and numerous prizes. Attire is business casual with jacket optional.
The Guma Foundation honors the lives of the late Ralph Guma Sr. and Ralph Guma Jr. Their family lives in Secaucus. Diagnosed with a brain tumor at the age of 9, Ralph Guma Jr. survived to age 33, attended local schools and earned a college degree. The foundation’s mission began in 1991with the awarding of the RMG Scholarship that resulted in more than $30,000 over the years being given to deserving high school graduates to help defray the costs of their post-high school educations.
“The Guma Foundation eventually changed its mission and we redirected our energies,” explained Pat Guma, president of the foundation. Youngsters with brain tumors are now the main recipients of The Guma Foundation’s donations. “To date we have contributed over $100,000 to the Tomorrows Children’s Fund at Hackensack University Medical Center (HUMC),” said Guma. The foundation is committed to providing at least $10,000 annually to the Tomorrows Children’s Fund, and since 2000 has donated more than $10,000 directly to the families of sick children to help support their needs and fulfill some of their dreams.
To purchase tickets and pay online or for further information about the foundation, visit

Independent film screening series continues on Feb. 28

The next screening in the Friends of the Secaucus Public Library independent film series will take place at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 28 with “Meet the Patels,” a romantic comedy written and directed by siblings Ravi and Geeta Patel. The film won the Audience Choice Award at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival, was named a Top 10 Audience Favorite at Hot Docs Canadian International Film Festival, named Best Feature Documentary at the Mt. Hood Independent Film Festival, and won the Audience Award at the Mosaic International South Asian Film Festival. Following the movie, Friends’ Vice President Zinnia Miller will lead an open discussion of the film.
“Our intention in hosting an independent film series is to give adults in our community a monthly opportunity to see smaller-budget independent movies that they might have missed in wide-screen release or that might not have played locally,” said Miller. “We also wanted to provide a chance for movie-lovers to talk about these films with other viewers. As an avid book club participant, I wanted to create a similar club using award-winning and well-received independent films, rather than books, to generate discussion.”
The screening and discussion will take place on the second floor of the library. Popcorn and other light refreshments will be served. “While Friends of the Library programs are open to all residents, we urge parents and caregivers to keep in mind that many of the films shown contain adult themes and may not be appropriate for children and young adults,” said Library Director Jenifer May. “‘Meet the Patels’ in particular is rated PG.”
New independent films will be shown at the library at 1 p.m. on the fourth Sunday of each month. The March screening, however, will be held one week early on Sunday, March 20, in deference to the Easter holiday. Registration for each film is recommended, and can be done by calling (201) 330-2083 x4011.

Secaucus Library nonfiction book group to meet March 3

Secaucus Library’s nonfiction book group will meet 7 p.m. on March 3 to discuss New York Times bestseller “The Wright Brothers” by two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize David McCullough. This book details how two unschooled bicycle mechanics ushered in the age of flight and changed our world forever.
At the Feb. 4 meeting the group discussed “The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics,” by Daniel James Brown. The great Depression, the dust bowl and the rise of Nazi Germany all helped frame this story of nine working-class boys rowing their way to Olympic fame.
“Bob and Lorraine Lillis expanded the book group’s appreciation for today’s rowing races by talking about recent competitions their son has participated in,” said Dale Evanson, coordinator of the book club. “The personal experience of attendees adds interest to the discussion.”
“Wave” by Sonali Deraniyagala will be the subject of the April 6 meeting. It was one of the New York Times 10 Best Books of 2013. In it the author chronicles the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami that horrifically snatched from her all that mattered.
The group meets at 7 p.m. on the first Thursday of every month at the Secaucus Public Library, 1379 Paterson Plank Rd. At each meeting the group votes on selections for upcoming meetings. Copies of books are available at the library as well as a limited number of e-book copies. Registration for the discussion group is strongly encouraged and can be done through the library’s website or by calling (201) 330-2083 x4011.

JSA visits DC

Forty-one members of the Secaucus High School Junior State of America (JSA) chapter traveled to Washington, DC on Thursday, Feb. 18 to participate in the annual Winter Congress event. The event brings schools from all over the east coast, Texas, and even some of the American islands (Guam, Virgin Islands, etc.) to participate in a mock congress. Students from each school present Congressional bills that they have worked on since the beginning of the school year.
The Secaucus chapter submitted nine bills for consideration of being placed on the official dockets for both House and Senate committees. The chapter was successful in getting two of their bills approved; a bill to increase the sale age for tobacco products to 21, and a bill to eliminate the current loopholes for non-English speakers on the naturalization test.
The Secaucus Chapter spent four days in DC and had the opportunity to visit Arlington Cemetery and the Smithsonian Museum of American History. Due to the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, the students were not able to attend the Capital Speaker’s program that was scheduled for Friday. Instead they heard from two keynote speakers: Joshua Lafazan, the youngest elected official in New York State history, and Jack Jacobson, who currently works with the Federal U.S. Department of Education.
What makes JSA so unique is that students organize every aspect of the organization, from the chapter level all the way to state and national administration. Student leaders, elected by their fellow JSA members, plan and execute all the conventions, conferences, and political-awareness events held by JSA.

Secaucus attorney’s murder trial ends in mistrial

The judge declared a mistrial on all counts in the case of a Secaucus attorney accused of trying to murder his girlfriend. After several days of deliberation and reviewing tapes of the trial proceedings, the jury told the judge on Feb. 17 that they could not reach an agreement on a decision. The judge ordered them to continue deliberations, but after two more days the jurors passed a note to Judge Mark Nelson saying they were deadlocked and “neither side sees a path to changing their decision,” according to
Todd Gorman was accused of stabbing his girlfriend, Stephanie Schwartz, on Sept. 29, 2011. Police responding to a domestic violence call on that date allegedly found both Gorman and his girlfriend, Stephanie Schwartz, on the floor of their home covered in blood, with Gorman’s legs wrapped around Schwartz. Police knocked him out and pulled the victim away, according to testimony.
The defense claimed that Schwartz was abusive and suicidal, and that Gorman intervened in a suicide attempt. The pair allegedly met in a suicide chat room and Schwartz took her own life less than a year after the incident.
Jurors deliberated for four days over the charges and played back a substantial portion of the testimonies before advising the judge they were deadlocked. A hearing is scheduled for March 18 to determine how to proceed.
Gorman can be retried on all charges. He previously turned down a deal under which he would have pleaded guilty to third-degree aggravated assault and would likely have been sentenced to probation only, with no jail time. However, if he pleaded guilty, Gorman would lose his license to practice law.

FD kept busy in Secaucus with weather emergencies, fire

With the cold snap over the Presidents Day and Valentine’s Day extended weekend, the Secaucus Fire Department was kept busy with weather related emergencies. Firefighters responded to more than 20 calls due to pipes freezing. Firefighters responded three times to one apartment building due to multiple breaks and flooding conditions. Another mixed occupancy building on Front Street had both a water pipe break and a gas leak in the basement, requiring 15 adults and 10 children, including some from a day care, to be temporarily displaced until PSE&G could fix a leaking meter. Management at Black Jack Mulligan’s allowed the displaced residents to stay dry and warm inside their establishment until the gas leak could be remedied.
All units also responded to a small fire in a home on 9th Street on Monday night. This incident was not weather related.

Theatre performance of ‘Almost, Maine’ on April 1 at the library

Come see a theatrical performance of “Almost, Maine,” presented by the Hudson County Shakespeare Company on Friday April 1 from 7 to 9 p.m. in the Secaucus Library’s second floor Panasonic Room. ”Almost, Maine” is a play by John Cariani, comprising nine short plays that explore love and loss in a remote, mythical almost-town called Almost, Maine. It premiered at the Portland Stage Company in Portland, Maine in 2004 where it broke box office records and garnered critical acclaim. There are eleven short scenes: Her Heart, Sad & Glad, Getting It Back, Seeing the Thing, Story of Hope, Where It Went, This Hurts, They Fell, Epilogue, and Prologue, and Interlogue. Registration is highly recommended.

Walk to benefit ovarian cancer research will be April 2

To help raise awareness about ovarian cancer and to raise funds to eventually develop a test, the New York and New Jersey chapters of the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition will hold their First Annual Run/Walk at Liberty State Park on Saturday, April 2.
The National Ovarian Cancer Organization is the oldest and largest ovarian cancer organization in the United States, and the only one that has “feet on the street” in communities across the nation.
The 5K run/walk in Liberty State Park is one of 20 such events that will be held nationwide in 2016.
The cost for the April 2 walk is $35 for adults if they sign up before March 31. Participants can register online at

Nature walk is March 6 in DeKorte Park

Join the Bergen County Audubon Society for a free, two-hour nature walk at DeKorte Park in Lyndhurst on Sunday, March 6 from 10 a.m. to noon. Look for raptors, waterfowl and other birds of interest. Meet in the Meadowlands Environment Center parking lot. For information contact or (201) 230-4983.

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