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Monty Firefighters Remember 911 Terrorist Attacks

By Rebecca Koblin l September 13, 2021

9/11 was a day of pain and sorrow, but it was also a day that brought the American people together like never before.

Montgomery Fire Chief Adam Verducci led a brief ceremony at Fire Company No. 2's Blawenburg headquarters on Saturday, honoring first responders who sacrificed their lives during the terrorist attacks that killed 2,977 people 20 years ago on September 11, 2001.

Community members gathered in the firehouse parking lot, facing the 9/11 memorial, which featured a piece of steel from the World Trade Center. The 9/11 memorial at the Montgomery firehouse stands to represent those who have fallen, but it also represents a moment in time when Americans came together to heal.

Overall, 412 emergency workers were included in the death toll on that woeful day. Three Montgomery residents and one Rocky Hill resident also died in the 9/11 attacks – Brian Thomas Cummins, Steven Goldstein, Phillip L. Parker, and William F. Fallon.

Montgomery Fire Company No. 2 volunteers at the 911 memorial ceremony on Saturday. Photos by Rebecca Koblin.

The ceremony included a Scottish bag piper, and speeches by dignitaries, including Chief Verducci, NJ Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker, Montgomery Mayor Devra Keenan, and Fire Company President Justin Kabis. Sobs could be heard coming from the crowd as friends and family gathered to comfort one another.

Assemblyman Zwicker spoke about the lasting effects of the 911 attack. Not only did first responders put their lives on the line that day, but many who survived are continuing to suffer the consequences of that tragic event, he said.

"We must never forget those who survived, but who are still dealing with physical health issues from breathing toxic dust, and mental health issues from having to deal with unspeakable tragedy," Zwicker said. "Never forget that, on the days that followed, neighbors were there for neighbors, strangers were there for strangers. We didn’t think about anything but helping each other. Because that is the core of who we are ... as a community, as a state, and as a country.”

Twenty years out from the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, nearly 10,000 first responders and others who were in the World Trade Center area have been diagnosed with cancer, according to an article on the Mount Sinai website. "More than 2,000 deaths have been attributed to 9/11 illnesses. It will get worse." By the end of 2018, doctors expected that more people will have died from their toxic exposure from 9/11 than were killed on that terrible day.

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“We’re nervous,” said Michael Crane, MD, MPH, director of the World Trade Center Health Program Clinical Center of Excellence at The Mount Sinai Hospital. The average age of a 9/11 first responder is now about 55. While many people face a cancer diagnosis as they age, the rate of some cancers among first responders is up to 30 percent higher than in the general population, Dr. Crane said.

Mayor Keenan shared her own heart-wrenching experience of being out-of-the-country when the tragedy struck. Keenan had been employed in an office building that faced the World Trade Towers crash site. “I turned on the television… and what I saw was a building, the one that I looked at every day, in fact, the one I walked through, everyday, back and forth from the subway. To see flames and smoke billowing out ...” said Keenan, her voice trailing off.

“Learning of the events through the news media and later through the stories of my traumatized team, one of whom narrowly escaped being crushed under something or someone, falling from the sky, left an indelible memory of the tragedy that took the lives of everyday Americans as well as those first responders who risked, and many of whom paid, with their lives,” she said.

Mayor Devra Keenan (second from right) with Montgomery Township former mayors who attended the firefighters' 9/11 ceremony. From left: Don Matthews, Theodore F. Lubas, Keenan, and Sadaf Jaffer, who is running for NJ Assembly.

Keenan spoke of tragedy, but she also told a story of unity. She spoke of people offering up love and support to her whenever they could, of handwritten signs in the windows of foreign shops with encouraging words for the American people. She also spoke of strangers who, upon hearing her American accent, asked if she needed anything. If there was any way they could help.

Fire Company President Kabis discussed the importance of remembering this day and teaching younger generations about the history of 9/11. He said, “We must learn, know, remember, and share our history, because those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” Kabis went on to discuss why the Montgomery volunteer firefighters built the memorial — “to commemorate those lost."

"It was a labor of patience and duty, so that we may never forget that fateful day,” he said.

Montgomery Fire Chief Adam Verducci. Photo by Rebecca Koblin.

Chief Verducci recognized that America has "gone through a very drastic period in the last year." "The unity and the sense of community on Sept. 12, where everybody was together and it didn’t matter what color your skin was or what your beliefs were, or any of that… that was probably when we were the most united… It would be nice if we could have that same sense of community and that same sense of togetherness and support for one another.”

The Montgomery Open Space Committee planted a tree at Hobler Park on Saturday afternoon, in honor of those who died in the 911 terrorist attack.

There was also a wreath-laying ceremony by Mayor Keenan, Montgomery Township Committee members, and Somerset County Commissioners at the at the 9-11 Memorial at Montgomery Veteran’s Park, Belle Mead, later on Saturday.

Montgomery's Veteran's Park has a granite slab from the World Trade Center, benches for reflection, and a plaque that reads: In remembrance of the victims of the attack on the United States of America, September 11, 2001. In compassion for families and friends; in support for those who defend our freedom; we stand united. May peace abide. God bless America. Photo by MJ Narula.

Montgomery Deputy Mayor Marvin Schuldiner and Committeeman Kent Huang with Montgomery Boy Scouts Jai and Josh Narula at the wreath ceremony. Photo by MJ Narula.

9/11 Memorial built by Montgomery firefighters at Montgomery Fire Company No. 2 on Route 518 in Blawenburg. Photo by Rebecca Koblin.

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