By Eugenia Moskowitz
Seventeen years later, the events of September 11, 2001, are still present and painful in Washingtonville. This was clear by the tears shed at the evening candlelight service at Memorial Park, where five of the victims of the terrorist attacks of that day were honored and remembered.
Flags were lowered to half staff and memorials were held throughout the day starting at 8:30 a.m. when the American flag was changed by the Washingtonville High School JROTC. A very large service was held at the same location at 11:00 a.m. for active and retired FDNY and NYPD heroes, with cars lining Ahern Blvd. all the way to Brotherhood Drive. The day’s public remembrances closed, at 7:00 p.m., with the sunset candlelight vigil held, as Mayor Joe Bucco said, “To honor all of those who lost their lives on that horrific day.”
“We remember them as they lived,” Bucco said in a message to the community, “bringing life and love to those who knew them and how they shared their love for our village. We mourn the loss of these men as well as all the other lives lost in New York City, Arlington Virginia, Somerset Pennsylvania, and those fighting overseas to protect our freedom.”
The men specifically honored at Memorial Park’s monument to them are: FDNY Firefighters Bobby Hamilton, Gerry Nevins, and Mark Whitford, FDNY Lieutenant Glenn Perry, and FDNY Battalion Chief Dennis Devlin.
Washingtonville’s own John Salka (retired Battalion Chief) spoke about Ray Phillips (also retired), who died last winter of 9/11-related illnesses. Many others, he said, both FDNY and NYPD, are currently suffering with the ill effects of the toxic post-9/11 air in downtown Manhattan. Firefighters, he said, always respond with a minimal amount of information, as they did “while the rest of the civilized world was still busy trying to nail down the facts.” They are heroes, he said, not because they died but because they went in as others were dying. Salka described how these five men, who had little to do with each other’s firehouses, all started that day in different areas of the city but all came together at the same location as the cataclysm happened.
Salka thanked the participants at the memorial for coming, including Boy Scout Troop 416, all active area fire departments including Port Jervis, all off-duty and retired firefighters, all active area police department personnel, and all off-duty and retired area police and NYPD. He then thanked the rest of the public, for coming and holding the candles.
Caption 1 : A couple sat at the Washingtonville Memorial midday, reflecting on memories of 911 and their tight-knit community (Photos by Aerial Photo Platform Inc.)
Caption 2: Village of South Blooming Grove Boy Scouts are already committed to serve their community, as they salute while holding memorial candles. (Photos by Edie Johnson)