By Ted Waddell
LOCH SHELDRAKE It was a day when grown men cried.
Folks like NYS Senator John J. Bonacic, Loch Sheldrake Fire Department Chief Mike Renzulli and scores of local volunteer firefighters gathered to mourn the hundreds of firefighters, police, EMS personnel and other rescue workers who died in valiant attempts to help during the September 11 attack on America.
In a memorial service organized by the Sullivan County Volunteer Firefighters Association (SCVFA) following their 73rd annual parade in Loch Sheldrake, marchers and observers unashamedly shed tears and fought to control their emotions, as clergy, political leaders and members of various area fire departments spoke passionately about the love of country, freedom and the loss of brother firefighters.
Rev. Carl Casky of the Loch Sheldrake Baptist Church prayed for the nations leaders and those who perished in the attacks.
In reading selected passages from Psalm 37, The Psalm of David, Rabbi Nathan Steinberg of Young Israel Vacation Village in Loch Sheldrake paid tribute to the emergency personnel who sacrificed their lives.
Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, he read. The wicked plotteth against the just, and gnasheth upon him with his teeth. The Lord shall laugh at him; for he seeth that his day is coming.
Continuing to read from Davids Psalm, Steinberg said, The wicked have drawn out the sword, and have bent their bow, to cast down the poor and needy, and to slay such as be of upright conversation. Their sword shall enter into their own heart, and their bows shall be broken.
For the arms of the wicked shall be broken; but the Lord will uphold the righteous, he added. But the wicked shall perish, and the enemies of the Lord shall be as the fat of lambs: they shall consume; into smoke shall they consume away.
As the words of one of the most quoted psalms faded into the twilight, the crowd bowed their heads in prayer and remembrance.
Steinberg prayed for the souls that were lost and their families.
Remember the heroism, the strength of America and freedom, he said.
Senator Bonacic spoke briefly but eloquently about his deep feelings for those citizens who were cut down in the terrorist attacks.
On Tuesday morning, I watched in horror the unspeakable acts of violence in New York City, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania, he said with emotion. I worry about those who are trapped in the buildings, grieve for those lives that were lost and marvel at the acts of heroism in ongoing rescue efforts.
Ive cried for people I dont even know, Bonacic added.
After he recalled words from the speech given by Robert F. Kennedy following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the senator joined the assemblage in singing God Bless America.
As the crowd united in song, tears welled in the eyes of the officials assembled on stage.
After the memorial ceremony, Bonacic stopped to say, Its breaking my heart, but well be back stronger than before.
The precious gift of life given in servitude to others will not be forgotten, said departmental chaplain Gene Huebsch. Nothing will deter the actions of free Americans.
Our flags fly at half-mast, our shields are covered with black tape and our firehouse is covered in bunting, he added. We parade not in joy, but in memorial. We share the cup of sorrow.
Jack Halchak, chairman of the Sullivan County Fire Advisory Board, is a 34-year member of the Hurleyville VFD. During the ceremony, he was joined on stage by his six-year-old son Austin, wearing his fathers dress uniform hat.
Im representing my company, my country and showing a solidarity to brother firemen, he said.
This is heartbreaking, Loch Sheldrake Chief Mike Renzulli said of the memorial service. I cried for all the firefighters and people who died.
Shawn Edwards is Car 2 at Loch Sheldrake.
It was very emotional. . . . There was such a sense of patriotism and camaraderie. You could just feel the love in the air for our country and fellow firefighters.
There was a feeling of true Americanism.
John Scanlon is a Smallwood/ Mongaup Valley volunteer firefighter. On Saturday, he marched together with firemen from Kauneonga Lake and White Lake without a banner, as some local departments dropped out of the parade, which they felt should have been cancelled or postponed in the wake of Tuesdays terrorist attacks.
This wasnt about parades or trophies, explained Scanlon. This was a memorial service.