By Ted Waddell
SMALLWOOD September 17, 2004 A tattered pair of firefighter's boots holding American flags sat in the Saturday morning sun in a small memorial park dedicated to the victims lost in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.
Inscribed on the boots (labeled "In Our Hearts Forever, Brothers") were the names of three firefighters with ties to the Smallwood community, firemen who died on 9-11, sacrificing their lives in the hope that others might live to see another dawn: Steven Coakley, Dana Hannon and Michael D. Mullen.
An ex-U.S. Marine transferred a kiss from his lips to a photo of his beloved son affixed to a granite memorial stone honoring the memory of five among more than 3,000 lost on that fateful morning three years ago.
In addition to firefighters Coakley, Hannon and Mullen (a member of FDNY Ladder Company 12 in Chelsea), the local community still mourns the deaths of Steven Genovese and Scott McGovern.
On Saturday, September 11, 2004, the Smallwood-Mongaup Valley Volunteer Fire Department hosted a third anniversary memorial service to the victims of 9-11-2001.
After several surviving relatives were escorted to the memorial park outside the fire station, the assemblage saluted the American flag, and wreaths were placed on memorial markers in honor of members of the FDNY and civilians who perished in the terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers of the WTC.
Regina and Kathleen Scott, aunts of Scott Martin McGovern; Diane Lubniewski, Steven Coakley's cousin; and Steven Gregory Genovese's father, Jack Genovese, were escorted by members of the local fire department, including Chief Charlie Kalinowski and firefighters Bob Bonnaci Sr., Bernie Cohen, Gerald Donohue, and Jake Burns.
The day of remembrance was organized by Capt. John Scanlon, an 11-year member of the Smallwood-Mongaup Valley Fire Department.
Forget all the platitudes about loss and grief. Forget the 24-7 political posturing about 9-11.
Recall the wrenching drop in the pit of your stomach when you first heard about the hijacked planes crashing into the Twin Towers, the Pentagon and a lonely field in Pennsylvania.
Remember what it was like to think a loved one had been snatched away.
Think about what it was like for that fear to become reality.
"As we know, there are plenty of t-shirts, plaques and baseball hats that say, 'Never Forget'," said Capt. Scanlon, whose nephew Scott Martin McGovern, a 35-year-old trader at Euro Brothers in 2 World Trade Center, died on 9-11-01.
"But I made a solemn promise to my family and myself that as long as I have a breath, I will make sure they never forget," Scanlon added, choking back his emotions.
As the ceremony got underway, the fire station's siren sounded for a full three minutes at 8:47 a.m., marking the time the first hijacked aircraft made its appointment with destiny at 1 WTC.
Followed a few minutes later in the wake of a period of silent reflection, the siren again sounded, marking the attack on 2 WTC.
Diane Lubniewski's cousin Steven Coakley, a 36-year FDNY firefighter with Engine Company 217 of Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn, had just finished up a full shift and was getting ready to leave the A-Station when the first alarm bell rang on Sept. 11, 2001.
"When the sirens went off, he jumped on the back of a truck. . . . Nobody knew he went in," she said.
A couple of days later, Coakley's helmet was found, and weeks afterwards, his remains were recovered.
"We knew he was missing. . . . He was way down there," said Lubniewski. "We just waited day by day."
Three years later, she was planning a trip to Ground Zero but just couldn't bring herself to go so close to the scene of the disaster.
Three years after the attack, Lubniewski knelt by Dana Hannon's (a FDNY firefighter with Engine Company 26) time-weathered pair of firefighter's boots and silently reached out to touch the inscribed name of her lost brother.
Jack Genovese still cries when he thinks of his son Steven, a 37-year-old partner at Cantor Fitzgerald.
In 1993, Steven Gregory Genovese survived the first terrorist attack on the WTC.
Much to his family's relief, he turned up hours later at a bar in Hoboken.
But eight years later, he died when a plane struck the second tower.
"We had a vigil at our house. . . . All my neighbors and buddies came over, and we waited for the news," recalled Jack Genovese of the hours of anguish following first word on the attacks of 9-11-2001.
"We assumed he was gone, and three months later, they found his remains," he said.
"I still have anger," said the ex-Marine. "It feels like yesterday. . . . It's the little things you see, the little things you hear."
Genovese said he was up "crying" since 4 a.m. on the day of the third anniversary, watching coverage on CNN.
"I'm pissed, really pissed," Genovese said of those he holds responsible for his son's tragic death.
"So much was lax, they [government departments] weren't talking to each other," he added. "Let's get it done and stop the nonsense."
Afterwards, Genovese walked over to the monument and touched the photo of his departed son.
Striding away in the early morning sunlight filled with memories, Genovese looked towards the heavens and said, "He was a good-looking boy, wasn't he?"