Hundreds of Fort Lee residents, officials from local government and emergency service agencies and other dignitaries gathered at Sunday for Fort Lee’s 9/11 Memorial Commemoration Ceremony, marking the 10th anniversary of the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001.
The ceremony also served as the official dedication of Fort Lee’s first 9/11 memorial built from World Trade Center steel—a girder from the North Tower that stood just to the left and above where the airliner made impact and a foundation plate that once helped support the South Tower—donated to the borough by the Port Authority and to honor Fort Lee’s emergency service agencies.
The ceremony began at 9:59 a.m. Sunday with a moment of silence in remembrance of the collapse of the South Tower of the World Trade Center. During the moment of silence a fire bell sounded, ringing five separate times over four separate periods, signifying the death in the line of duty of a fireman and first responder. A second moment of silence followed at exactly 10:28 a.m. when the North Tower collapsed 10 years ago. The traditional fire bell rung during the second moment of silence was in remembrance of all fallen firefighters and first responders.
The rest of the events Sunday were as follows:
Pledge of Allegiance
Juliette Bergman, 9/11 survivor
Raising of the flag
Fort Lee Fire Department Color Guard
Star Spangled Banner
Performed by Jerry Naylis
Rabbi Meir Berger and Rev. Richard Lee
Welcome and introductory comments
Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich
Speakers Sunday included U.S. Rep. Steve Rothman (D-NJ), State Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-37); State Assemblywoman Joan Voss (D-38); General Manager of the George Washington Bridge Robert Durando; Fort Lee resident, Fire Chief on 9/11 and survivor Michael DeGidio; Fort Lee Councilman and police liaison on 9/11 Jan Goldberg; and Fort Lee resident Andrew Krymkevich of the U.S. Marine Corps who served in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Janine Vassel, the sister of 9/11 victim Scott Vassel, read a list of victims who were either living in Fort Lee at the time of their deaths or, Sokolich said, “what we refer to as children of Fort Lee, who spent much of their lives in this community.”
Janine and Scott Vassel grew up in Fort Lee and graduated from Fort Lee High School. Since here brother’s passing, Janine Vassel has continued to be involved in a scholarship established in her brother’s name.
Fort Lee Council members read the ceremonial plaque affixed to the foundation plate of the new monument and another plaque affixed to the memorial, each describing the memorial and the significance of the artifacts.
Presentation of Emergency Service Agency Plaques
- Fire Department – Reading: Fort Lee Fire Chief Jeff Silver; Presentation of wreath: Deputy Fire Chief Keith Sabatino and Battalion Chief Mark Sulcov.
- Police Department – Reading: Fort Lee Police Chief Thomas Ripoli; Presentation of wreath: Fort Lee police Captains Roy Bortolus, Timothy Ford and Keith Bendul.
- Ambulance Corps – Reading: Fort Lee Ambulance Corps Chief Cathi Goldfischer; Presentation of wreath: Paul Favia and Andrew Rizkalla.
- Emergency Management – Reading: OEM Coordinator Stephen Ferraro; Presentation of wreath: Cathy Umrichin and Arlene Hoffman.
The ceremony continued with expressions of gratitude and presentation of gifts, and culminated with “concluding thoughts” by Rabbi Kenneth Stern, which included the reading of a poem written by Fort Lee resident Carol Simon; God Bless America performed by Naylis; a closing benediction by Rev. Richard Spenst and Father Stephen Carey; and Taps performed on a “pocket trumpet” by Fort Lee High School senior and trombone player Jonathan Portee.
A ceremonial lighting of the monument’s eternal light concluded the ceremony.
Fort Lee emergency service agency plaque inscriptions
Fort Lee Fire Department
“Hundreds of firefighters and apparatus responded to the George Washington Bridge from across the country to assist at ground zero. Our fire Department organized and supported these responders and transported military and medical personnel across the George Washington Bridge. Our firefighters were assigned incident command functions at the Port Authority GWB Unified Command Post and provided coverage at several FDNY firehouses, as well as other essential support services to the FDNY, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the City of New York.”
Fort Lee Police Department
“Our officers provided essential security at the George Washington Bridge, provided transportation services for emergency personnel, established security check points throughout the area, assisted in the supervision of the command post and provided a host of other essential emergency services throughout the area while maintaining the highest levels of security within the Borough of Fort Lee which by all accounts was a potential target due to its proximity to the George Washington Bridge.”
Fort Lee Ambulance Corps
“Members of our corps provided essential medical and emergency services at Ground Zero assisting the victims of this national disaster, assisted in the coordination of a triage area at Fort Lee High School, provided manpower and resources at command posts in Jersey City to assist in the search and rescue of stranded persons on the PATH trains and continued to provide uninterrupted and critical services to the residents of the Borough of Fort Lee during this time of crisis.”
Fort Lee Office of Emergency Management
“Our members coordinated and established an emergency medical treatment area at Fort Lee High School, provided resources and supplies in conjunction with the coordinated efforts of the New York City Police Department and the Port Authority Police Department, established shelters for support services for all emergency responders in the area and for our own emergency service agencies in the Borough of Fort Lee while providing uninterrupted emergency management services within our own community.”