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Democrat Photo by Matt Youngfrau

CARL HOUMAN RINGS the Monticello Fire Department’s bell during a 9/11 memorial service Thursday.

'Today, Our
Hearts Still Ache'

By Matt Youngfrau
MONTICELLO — Two years after terrorists killed more than 3,000 people on American soil, the hurt and the pain are still evident. And on September 11, 2003, most people stopped and took time from their busy lives to honor those lost.
Ceremonies were held in New York City, Washington, D.C., Pennsylvania, and throughout the country.
The executive director of the Sullivan County chapter of the Red Cross, Bette Popovich, happened to be in New York City on September 11, 2001. Two years later, Popovich was back at Ground Zero for New York City’s memorial event. In fact, Popovich was one of four Red Cross members chosen to be a part of the Honor Guard, which consisted of 75 different humanitarian agencies.
“People were expressing their emotions,” Popovich remarked. “It was very touching. We were seeing a great coming together of the community, both local and American. We are working together more to make a better and more prepared world. There are a lot of great people working together to make the world a better place.”
Popovich recalled that there was a long ramp which led down to the pit of Ground Zero. British constables patrolled the perimeter, but the guards had both British and American flags. Also surrounding the area were reproductions of posters and pictures from children sending messages to the loved ones they lost.
The Red Cross provided water bottles, said Popovich, many of which were used as flower vases or small shrines.
Throughout the state, the courts started with a moment of silence, and closer to home, Sullivan County remembered 9/11 in various ways.
At the Monticello Firehouse, a brief ceremony was held at the time of the first plane crash. More than 70 people attended the early morning event. An ecumenical prayer began the somber gathering.
“Two years ago, the unthinkable happened,” remarked Monticello Police Sergeant Sal Accomando. “It is difficult to put into words. We were stripped of the security we took for granted. We faced a common enemy and developed a strong sense of patriotism. We will not allow the innocent to be lost in vain. We should always appreciate our freedom.”
Afterwards, Monticello Firefighter Carl Houman rang the firehouse’s bell in honor of those fallen. Then the sirens went off in their memory.
Before the day of committee meetings started in the Sullivan County Legislature, legislators paused to honor those for whom tragedy befell.
“We all felt this deeply,” County Manager Dan Briggs said. “There were many losses.”
“Our lives were changed,” added Sullivan County Legislature Chair Leni Binder.
“Every day I am thankful that my grandparents came over to this country,” commented Health and Family Services Chair Don Trotta at the start of the day. “This is a great country we live in.”
“On the anniversary of September 11, we recognize all the men and women who are fighting in a foreign land,” Veterans Committee Chair Chris Cunningham stated at the beginning of his meeting. “They are protecting our freedom.”
That evening, the First Church of Monticello Presbyterian held an inter-faith community service of remembrance.
“We are all children of God, and today, our hearts still ache,” Monticello Mayor Gary Sommers said at the start of the service. “Two years ago today, thousands of our fellow citizens died as a result of terrorist attacks on our country. As terrible as those moments were for all of us, and in the midst of such horrendous loss of life, we witnessed extraordinary expressions of faith, courage, and compassion.”
The ceremony lasted well over an hour. Different spiritual leaders took turns speaking while candles were lit and hymns sung.
At the same time, a candlelight vigil was held on Broadway. Organized by the Monticello fire and police departments, participants marched from the Government Center to the Courthouse lawn.
“We are here tonight to both remember and show support,” stated Fire Chaplain Phil Conaty. “They were senseless, despicable acts. We pause collectively to show our support. We join in unity. We will never forget.”
Fire chiefs from throughout the county then read the names of the victims.
Over the weekend, the Liberty Museum had a 9/11 display. Children drew posters and pictures expressing their hurt regarding the tragedy. The exhibit continues through October 26.
As many said, 9/11 was an event that changed everyone’s life – an event that will forever be a part of every American.

Democrat Photo by Ted Waddell

WURTSBORO RESIDENTS GATHERED in the village Thursday evening to pay tribute to those lost in the 9/11 attacks.

9/11/03 a Somber Day

By Ted Waddell
WURTSBORO — September 16, 2003 – “Just two short years ago in less than two hours, our nation was attacked and in the wake of that attack, over 3,000 Americans were killed and the icons of American military strength and the world’s free trade were left in ashes and ruins,” said Sullivan County Judge Frank J. LaBuda.
In commemorating Patriot Day 2003, the second anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, on Thursday evening the members of American Legion Post 1266 of Wurtsboro and the Wurtsboro Fire Department sponsored a candlelight memorial service of remembrance at the village’s veteran’s park.
As a veteran of the Gulf War and member of the local fire department, LaBuda said that from the destruction of 9/11, America has grown “stronger in our determination, stronger in our faith.”
“Tonight we bear witness to that strength, and we stand here together on a day of humble remembrance,” he said. “A day on which we reflect as Americans and give thanks to the Almighty Creator for the gift of life and family.”
As LaBuda encouraged the gathering of an estimated 400 people to reflect on the events of September 11, 2001, he spoke movingly about the families “who wait in silence to learn the fate of their loved ones” currently fighting terrorism overseas around the world.
“They are following the nightly news reports to hear about the loss of life today in Iraq and tomorrow in Afghanistan,” he said.
This reminder of current world events struck a personal note, as a couple of weeks ago, his son Kurt returned from the fields of fire in Iraq.
His words also resonated with Melissa Arnott of Wurtsboro whose 28-year-old son James is on active duty as a combat medic with the 82nd Airborne in Baghdad.
“I have great sympathy for the families who lost loved ones on September 11, and there is my son over there defending the country,” she said. “I hope it never happens again.”
In the quiet moments before the ceremony started, people laughed about the everyday happenings of life and talked reflectively about where they were two years ago.
Ruth Duncan of Jeffersonville, is assistant manager at a local Agway.
She recalled hearing the first news broadcasts about the attacks while working up an order next to a cash register.
“You couldn’t believe your ears,” she said. “It sounded like maybe it was a little plane that hit the [first] tower.”
Then as the extent of the attacks became clearer, she picked up a phone and called her husband, who was at home taking the day off.
“He was glued to the TV all day, and called us up all day long to keep us informed about what was going on,” noted Duncan.
In WWII, Ken Duncan was stationed with the U.S. 8th Air Force at an air base in Kimbolton, England.
He flew 37 combat missions over Germany and France aboard B-17’s.
Duncan was scheduled to deploy to the Pacific Theatre, where he would fly B-29’s to the heart of the Empire of the Rising Sun when President Harry S. Truman decided to order atomic bombs dropped on two major Japanese cities, thus ending the war.
“Thank God for that,’ said Ruth Duncan.
As darkness descended, a more somber mood arose, and a group of uniformed firefighters and emergency services personnel started to march up Sullivan Street from the local firehouse to the veterans park.
NYS Police Trooper Terry Mullen led the procession with the haunting sound of the pipes from the Scottish Highlands.
Participating fire companies included Wurtsboro, Bloomingburg, Summitville, Westbrookville and Fallsburg.
“Patriot Day is not a day of celebration, as are most holidays, but is a day of remembrance and sadness,” said Anthony Ferguson, Commander of American Legion Post 1266.
“Today, a new group of young men and women are answering the call of their nation to bring to justice those who perpetrated this act of terror. They are a new group of patriots that have been trained to fight for our freedom.”
As Richard Dunn, chief of the Wurtsboro Volunteer Fire Department, signaled the “Striking of the Four-Fives,” the ceremony drew to a close with a cadre of four fire chiefs, a squad captain and a New York State Trooper laying a memorial wreath at the veterans’ memorial.
As the sharp tones of the bell cut through the night and candles guttered in the wind, a timeline of the attacks was read toward the heavens: from 8:48 a.m., when American Airlines Flight 11 slammed into the north tower of the World Trade Center; 9:05 United Airlines Flight 175 crashed into the south tower; American Airlines flight 77 struck the Pentagon at 9:43 a.m.; the south tower fell at 9:59 a.m.; United Airlines Flight 93 crashed into a field outside Pittsburgh after passengers attempted to take control of the hijacked aircraft; and the north tower collapsed at 10:28 a.m.
The memorial service concluded with “Amazing Grace” played by Mullen, a benediction by Elder Karen Tolze of Wurtsboro Community Church, Mia Hubbert singing “Let There Be Peace on Earth” and a firing squad salute to the victims.
“We’re just trying to keep the memory of 9/11 alive so people won’t forget,” said Dunn.

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