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Thursday, February 29, 2024

Remembering September 11, here and there

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Above / One World Trade Center stands today in New York City at the site of the National September 11 Memorial and Museum as a beacon of American freedom. (PN Photo, August 2015)

“May the lives remembered, the deeds recognized, and the spirit reawakened by eternal beacons, which reaffirm respect for life, strengthen our resolve to preserve freedom, and inspire an end to hatred, ignorance and intolerance.”  —From the National September 11 Memorial Mission Statement

At the beginning of the tour of the National September 11 Memorial inside the Freedom Tower in New York City, visitors pause to remember where they were that fateful day. (PN Photo, Sept. 6, 2019)
A year ago, during another visit to New York, we observed two reflecting pools graced with every victim’s name who died in the 2001 and 1993 attacks at the WTC. Inscribed into bronze panels along the edge of the Memorial pools, every name is a poignant reminder that freedom isn’t free. On September 11, 2001, the U.S. also witnessed the largest loss of heroic rescue personnel in American history and in 2019 reports were another 2,100 victims of Sept. 11-related illnesses that followed responsive acts of goodness and kindness. The City of Naperville will take time to remember at 6PM Wed., Sept. 11, 2020, at the Cmdr. Dan Shanower Sept. 11 Memorial along the Riverwalk. (PN Photo, Sept. 6, 2019)

The Annual September 11 Remembrance is hosted by the Exchange Club of Naperville, under the leadership of Marty Walker, Chairman of the Americanism Committee; in cooperation with the City of Naperville at the Cmdr. Dan Shanower September 11 Memorial. On the 19th anniversary of the horrific attacks, the public is welcome to attend Naperville’s remembrance that begins with music performed by the Naperville Municipal Band at 5:45PM, followed by a 45-minute program at 6PM. (In case of rain, the event will be canceled.)

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The Cmdr. Dan Shanower Sept. 11 Memorial is located along the Riverwalk between the DuPage River and the Naperville Municipal Center in downtown Naperville.

Following all local protocols for public safety, the Naperville Municipal Band will perform in the Riverwalk Amphitheater, located across the DuPage River from the Sept. 11 Memorial.

During the day of September 11, the City of Naperville prepares for its evening remembrance at the Cmdr. Dan Shanower September 11 Memorial located along the Riverwalk. (PN File Photo 2017)
As the sun began to set over still waters between the Riverwalk Covered Bridge and the Eagle Street Bridge on Sept. 11, 2017, hundreds of individuals gathered along the banks of the DuPage River to reflect and remember all the victims that day and ever since Sept. 11, 2001.

Note also that from noon to 12:30PM a special 30-minute concert on the 72 bells of the Millennium Carillon inside Moser Tower will play. A solemn tolling of the “Big Joe” bell followed by “In Memoriam,” a carillon piece written following the events of September 11, 2001, meant to be played in bell towers throughout the world. Carillon music also will be played beginning at 5:45PM.

What strikes me now as I write about observances planned for today is that I personally knew three individuals who were killed on Sept. 11, 2001. I am forever grateful that none of the individuals I know who have contracted coronavirus have lost their lives. I know I’ll never forget.

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The Cmdr. Dan Shanower Sept. 11 Memorial is located along the Riverwalk behind the Naperville Municipal Center. (PN Photo, August 2016)

Reflections on the day that changed the world forever

I will never forget hearing the news of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, from Jeanne Johnson during an early morning meeting at Egg Harbor in downtown Naperville. The meeting ended abruptly.

Rushing home, listening to the radio all the way, I hurried inside and tuned into the horrific replays on TV just as the second plane hit.  Stunned, I contacted each of our three children. Then I tried frantically to call several friends in Manhattan, but the phone lines rang busy. By 11AM, I’d heard back from two of them via terse emails that I have saved to remind me never to forget. The terror created by murdering hijackers was unthinkable.

In the days that followed, the heroism of the New York Fire Department, police and other first responders, some from Naperville who headed to NYC to help; individuals at the Pentagon such as Naperville native Cmdr. Dan Shanower who were killed serving our country; and the courageous passengers of Flight 93 led by Wheaton’s Todd Beamer who died preventing an even bigger disaster brought the tragedy closer to home.

By the end of two weeks after the attacks, my husband and I also had received news that two of our friends as well as my sister-in-law’s nephew who worked in New York City— Tony Infante (Port Authority) and Bonnie Smithwick (Fred Alger Management), and Michael Boccardi (Fred Alger Management) — had been killed, too.

Shortly afterward, under the leadership of Naperville resident Chuck Johanns, citizens came together to begin planning Naperville’s fitting memorial to September 11, 2001.

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By 2003, the City of Naperville had completed the Cmdr. Dan Shanower Sept. 11 Memorial along the Riverwalk behind the Naperville Municipal Center. Ever since, the memorial with the Wall of Faces and the Century Walk sculpture, “Lean on Us” has been open and free, and the location of the City of Naperville’s annual remembrance. (PN 2014 File Photo)

Then as I often did on the first Friday in December, I flew to New York City to attend a luncheon with longtime friends with whom I’d worked as a young adult in Manhattan—many were the same people I’d tried to contact immediately upon hearing the tragic news on Sept. 11.

Since my flight arrived early that morning, I had planned to visit Ground Zero first. And I did.

Both Jim and I had lived in Manhattan all the while the World Trade Center was being built during the early 1970s. On the day we were married in 1978, we celebrated with our intimate wedding party overlooking the city from the Windows on the World on the 107th floor of the North Tower in the WTC. What a spectacular view!

Every time someone came to visit us in NYC, we took another tour to the top of the Twin Towers observation decks, 110 stories high. Our fond memories, friends and experiences connected us greatly to the events of that fateful day.

After visiting the devastation at Ground Zero and reconnecting with friends at the luncheon on that first Friday in December of 2001, I headed to the Red Hook Firehouse just outside the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel. Thanks to a contact of Naperville resident Bev Eigenberg via her son, David Eigenberg, who lived in New York at the time, the Red Hook firefighters welcomed my visit. The story of hope, resilience and sacrifice that afternoon is indelibly printed in my mind as though it were yesterday.  My Daily Herald column about the experience is linked/copied at the end of this lengthy post.

Just as folks recall where they were on Dec. 7, 1941, or Nov. 22, 1963; millions of Americans have personal stories of remembrance of that evil tragedy on Sept. 11, 2001.

Mindful of many challenges and unmet needs that call for solutions in our world during these uncharted times, I pray for freedom and peace every day. As we move forward, I pray that I’ll always remember, too.

Summer travels in 2015 led to tributes in Chatham, New Jersey

In August 2015, my daughter, Ashley, and I traveled to Chatham, New Jersey, where we stayed with our former next door neighbors, Diane and Jack Conlan, on the street where we used to live. While there, we visited the National September 11 Memorial and the Freedom Tower at One World Trade Center in New York City as well as two memorials in Chatham, New Jersey, where 13 residents and first responders have been remembered. Note the inclusion of steel beams from the WTC in those memorials, too.

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The September 11 Memorial pictured above is a tribute to 13 borough and township residents who were killed on Sept. 11, 2001. The memorial is located behind the Library of the Chathams at the North Passaic entrance to Memorial Park in Chatham Borough, New Jersey.
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The September 11 Memorial is situated in the Firehouse Plaza in Chatham Borough, New Jersey, near the Police Station and the Train Station. The inscription reads, “Dedicated to all who gave their lives on September 11, 2001, including our Brother Firefighters, Police and EMS. Their sacrifice is our loss. Their courage is our strength. Guiding the World towards a better future.” —Chatham Fire Department, September 11, 2014

Naperville’s September 11 Memorial / Reflections 2014

If it’s 8AM Thursday and dry, I’m usually about to meet a friend to begin my weekly walk of the Naperville Riverwalk. Early on the morning of September 11, 2014, I was deeply touched to encounter government students from Naperville Central High School visiting the Cmdr. Dan Shanower/September 11 Memorial behind the Naperville Municipal Center. Thirteen years earlier, the students likely were pre-schoolers.

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During an early morning visit to the Cmdr. Dan Shanower / September 11 Memorial, NCHS students in Donna Mohn’s government class were given an opportunity to learn how Sept. 11, 2001, changed the world and directly touched this community.

About an hour later, organizers of the 2014 Sept. 11 Remembrance, including retired firefighters Marty Walker and Chuck Wehrli, also had gathered to begin setting the stage for the annual observance slated to begin with patriotic music that day followed by a program presented by the Exchange Club of Naperville Americanism Committee.

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Pause, reflect and remember at the Cmdr. Dan Shanower/September 11 Memorial any day of the year.

The Wall of Faces with the eternal flame provides the backdrop for the sculpture “Lean on Us” at The Cmdr. Dan Shanower / September 11 Memorial. The design of the sculpture, listed among the Century Walk works of public art, includes a beam from the World Trade Center, stone remnants from the Pentagon and granite from Pennsylvania to symbolize the freedom fighters of Flight 93.  A message on a bench says, “Freedom isn’t free.”

Brooklyn’s Red Hook firefighters build tribute to ‘Seven in Heaven’

By Stephanie Penick
Copyright © January 08, 2002
Daily Herald / Posted online at Red Hook Raiders 

Once a year, I jet halfway across the country for a day to take part in a family reunion of sorts.

The annual journey takes me to New York City, where I lived and worked from the time I was 21 until I was 33. My co-workers at an advertising agency owned by Jerry Della Femina were my family between my childhood and my marriage.

Each year Della Femina hosts an “Old Timer Party,” a reunion for people who have worked in his various agencies since 1967.

This year, my one-day trip has left me with lasting images I never could have imagined before Sept. 11. Images of New Yorkers and their city, of evil and tragedy, of firefighters and bravery.

Before I left on my 16-hour trek, I called New York firefighter Al Nocella, one of the Red Hook Raiders featured in Daily Herald stories, to arrange a visit to the Brooklyn firehouse. Stationed just across the Brooklyn Bridge from the World Trade Center, the Red Hook Engine 202 and Ladder 101 companies were among the first to answer the emergency call on Sept. 11. All seven men of Ladder 101 were killed.

Since that morning, Naperville has joined other communities in raising money and support for the Red Hook families.

When I arrived in New York, I took a cab to the financial district and headed for the attack site. I joined dozens of other onlookers ignoring the rain to peer through an opening in the green make-shift fence surrounding the site. Feeling a mix of sadness, anger and love for my country, I observed evil and heroic goodness all at once.

A police officer kept everyone from stepping too close. He also directed us to a memorial at Trinity Church, two blocks away. The church’s wrought iron fence was graced with photos, flowers, flags and banners emblazoned with affectionate tributes from around the world to the brave firefighters, police officers and innocent victims.

After my luncheon reunion, I crossed the Brooklyn Bridge and made my way to an industrial area near the end of the Battery Tunnel. At 31 Richards St., I found the Red Hook Raiders, one of five firehouses in the 32nd Battalion in Brooklyn.

Nocella was unable to meet with me. In the rescue mission, he sustained a knee injury requiring surgery. The day I visited, he had a doctor’s appointment.

Instead, firefighter Paul Brincat and Capt. Ed Kearon led me to the tribute they’ve created on one side of the garage to honor the “Seven in Heaven:” Lt. Joseph Cullickson and firefighters Patrick Byrne, Salvatore Calabro, Brian Cannizzaro, Thomas Kennedy, Joseph Maffeo and Terence McShane.

Like viewing the remnants of the World Trade Center, it’s another moment I’ll never forget.

In the kitchen, firefighters Joe Farinacci and Anthony Gerrara were stuffing thank you cards into envelopes and attaching mailing labels Brincat had printed. They showed me addresses from Naperville – many names were familiar.

Humbled by the attention they’ve received in recent months, they candidly re-created the morning they responded to the “1060” alert that sounded a major catastrophe.

“I’d never heard a 1060 emergency call in my 20 years with the department,” Kearon said. “We couldn’t begin to imagine what had happened.”

One by one, they recounted events, explaining the bond among firefighters worldwide, now stronger than ever after six weeks of funerals and memorial services.

Kearon showed me an amazing new book called “Brotherhood,” a compilation of pictures taken by 60 photographers during the days following the atrocious attack. Proceeds from the sale of the book will benefit the families of the 343 firefighters who died Sept. 11.

The firefighters’ highest priority is to care for the children who lost their fathers.

“Most of us are Irish or Italian (descent), and most of us send our children to Catholic or parochial schools,” Kearon said. “Keeping that tradition … is probably our biggest concern.”

Frank, witty, modest and truly grateful, they told how the tiniest mention of a need in the media resulted in truckloads of supplies – blankets, socks, gloves, even dog food for the canine corps.

Their daily routines didn’t begin or end on Sept. 11. As most of us sat home, glued to television coverage, firefighters found extraordinary strength to deal with their grief. They carried on with their individual duties, standing alert for other emergencies, always prepared to put their lives on the line to save ordinary people.

As they expressed appreciation for every single kindness from around the world, I discovered resilient, dedicated, brave men who said they “still have the greatest job in the world.”

I was overwhelmed by their heroism. And they don’t expect much in return.

“We just hope people will keep us in their thoughts and prayers next week, two years, three years from now,” Kearon said.

After a couple hours, I asked to call a cab for a ride to LaGuardia Airport. Gerrara’s shift was nearly over and he insisted on giving me a lift.

He may have driven the van, but all the Red Hook Raiders gave me a lift.

For more information about the Red Hook Raiders, visit http://eng202lad101.tripod.com.

—Stephanie Penick / PN

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PN Editor
An editor is someone who prepares content for publishing. It entered English, the American Language, via French. Its modern sense for newspapers has been around since about 1800.

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