Sept. 11 observances take place across NJ

September 11, 2011 6:24:00 PM PDT
Recovery efforts - a phrase that had different meaning in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks - took on a new definition Sunday as New Jersey observed the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks with events that honored the dead while focusing on the future.

Emphasizing the incredible spirit of volunteerism and community participation shown on that day, residents, officials, first-responders and families who lost loved ones gathered at events around the state to commemorate the 746 New Jerseyans killed in the attacks.

A memorial service was held Sunday morning along the Jersey City waterfront where more than 1,500 injured evacuees from the World Trade Center had been unloaded off ferries on Sept. 11, 2001, and treated at makeshift, outdoor triage centers. Some had been so desperate to escape Manhattan, one doctor recalled, they had jumped into the Hudson River and tried to swim to New Jersey before being plucked from the water by rescue boats.

Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy paid homage to the heroic efforts of hospital workers, first-responders and ordinary citizens on that day, and said the rebuilding efforts visible across the water at Manhattan's Ground Zero served as a poignant symbol of moving ahead.

"It's important to remember and reflect," Healy said. "It's equally important to press on, to move on, to take care of today and tomorrow, but not fixate on yesterday."

Flags flew at half-staff across the state and in Jersey City, where a bell was rung after each of the 37 names of city residents killed in the attacks. Musicians, singers, poets and speakers from the city's vibrant arts community spoke or sang about themes of loss, melancholy, and renewal.

Sitting in the audience, Maxine Lovero-McCormack clutched a small American flag and watched the proceedings as a Jersey City Fire Department boat - emblazoned with her father's name - bobbed in the water behind the stage. Joseph Lovero, who died at age 60 in the collapse of the World Trade Center, had been so passionate about firefighting that a stint as a volunteer turned into the department hiring him as a dispatcher. He had rushed to the Twin Towers on that day, with other members of the department, to try and help.

His daughter said her father was a wonderful man who would always be remembered by their family, even if the names of the 9/11 victims eventually fade into history.

"If they forget about the individual people who died there, that might be expected," Lovero-McCormack said. "But I never want people to forget about what happened to this country."

Under a sky constantly changing from a blanket of grey clouds and strong breezes to bursts of sunshine and stillness, Jersey City law enforcement personnel formed ranks around a marble slab with the names of all the city residents who died in the attacks. In the background, the USS New York, a U.S. Navy ship forged from steel from the World Trade Center, was visible across the water floating alongside Manhattan at the site of Ground Zero.

In nearby Bayonne, members of law enforcement and veterans groups called the Blue Knights and the Nam Knights caravanned on flag-decorated motorcycles to the Harbor View 911 Tear Drop Memorial, an enormous monument featuring a suspended tear drop that stands across the water toward the Statue of Liberty.

Wearing vests emblazoned with military and law enforcement patches, they paid homage to the lives lost on 9/11 and the soldiers "serving time in the sandbox," as one member put it, in overseas wars.

Charles Diaz, a member of the Blue Knights who is also a captain with the New York City Department of Sanitation Police, recalled how his arm had been badly broken in the collapse of the towers where he had rushed on 9/11. After recovering from surgery, he worked in Staten Island at the landfill site where debris and remains from the towers were taken.

"I'm thankful I came home to my children, when so many did not," he said, as his group formed a circle and bowed their heads in prayer.