A Plea for Civility as Washingtonville Remembers September 11
By Eugenia Moskowitz
Washingtonville’s September 11 memorial services were held throughout the day starting with the changing of the flag at the Washingtonville 5 Memorial on Ahern Blvd. by the Washingtonville High School JROTC at 8:46 a.m., an 11:00 a.m. service at the same location by retired and off-duty Orange County firefighters and police officers, a 7:00 p.m. memorial mass at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, and a 7:45 p.m. candlelight vigil back at the Washingtonville 5 Memorial with religious leaders and others.
At the 11:00 event, two white doves were released by children, teenagers sang beautiful songs, the Orange County Firefighters Pipes and Drums played, there was a rifle salute, and Taps was played on the bugle. Echoing what seemed to be a common feeling on this anniversary, New York City Retired Firefighters of Orange County and the Hudson Valley president Dan Finegan spoke about how Americans were united after September 11, and about how that unity and togetherness needs to come back, both in the citizenry and, especially, in politicians who, he said, often use the day for their own or their party’s gain. For the sake of the Washingtonville 5 — Battalion Chief Dennis Devlin, Lieutenant Glenn Perry, and Firefighters Robert Hamilton, Gerard Nevins, and Mark Whitford — Finegan said, “Bring back civility. Help your neighbors. Be the civil people of this great country that these men, who sacrificed their lives, so loved. Be kind to each other. Ask each other, ‘How you doin’?'” Check up on each other, he said, because we’re all we have.
He also spoke about those first responders who have since died from or currently suffer from 9/11-related illnesses, and how they need everyone’s support.
Elected officials and leaders of Washingtonville, Blooming Grove, Orange County, and the O.C Sheriff’s Department laid wreaths at the memorial, but it was the large crowd of ordinary people gathered and standing solemnly, in dress uniform or regular clothes, in memorial t-shirts or unadorned, covers off, hands on hearts or just quietly at their sides, that said the most about the anniversary of a day which remains sharp in our collective memory, even as 18 years have passed.