By Eli Ruiz
MONTICELLO “It’s like it happened only yesterday.”
That was the sentiment expressed by speakers and attendees at the 11th annual 9/11 memorial service held at the Monticello Firehouse Tuesday evening.
“Today is Patriot’s Day, our newest National Holiday… ,” said opening speaker and Monticello FD member Alan Kesten. “It is a day to remember what happened in America on September 11, 2001.… we need to be sure that it’s taught to our children or how will they know what happened, how will they understand what it means?”
Kesten made note of someone who never misses the somber ceremony, a grieving parent who has become the “face” of those affected by that day.
“To my friend Jack Genovese, who’s standing here, it’s a day to honor the memory of his son Steven,” Kesten said of the Mongaup Valley resident, whose son Steven died in one of the towers.
Kesten who was the driving force behind the ceremony stressed the importance of the number 343, the number of firefighters lost on 9/11 attempting to rescue those many innocent people trapped in the crippled Twin Towers.
Guest speaker was Lt. William Butler of Ladder 6 in the Bronx, among the very first responders shortly after the north tower was intentionally hit by American Airlines Flight 11, and was still in the building with 13 of his men, aiding in the rescue of the now deceased Josephine Harris when the building collapsed.
“Tonight… I’d rather not look back at the terrible destruction inflicted that day, but I’d prefer to focus on all the good that our fire and emergency services did as a whole that day at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and Shanksville Pennsylvania,” Butler said, then touched on the sheer magnitude of the loss inflicted on the NYC emergency services departments and said of those brave individuals, “They were giving of themselves, just as they were on every run of every day prior to that tragic day, just like you [local emergency services] and your members continue to do today.”
He added, “If you could ask any of them they would probably respond that they were just doing their job, but now we know it was much more than that… anyone who lays down a life for another is a true hero, while I could go on all night about the many of these gentlemen and their great feats and accomplishments both within and outside the FDNY and the many thousands of hours of experience we lost on that day, I’d like to focus tonight on where we’ve been, where we’ve gotten to, and a little bit about where, I think, we as the fire service are going, or need to go.”
Butler spoke about his experience that day and some of the flaws exposed in the emergency services system on 9/11 and what he called “the new normal” to describe some of the many changes that have taken place not only in the emergency services sector, but in the lives of all Americans since that transforming day. After Butler’s speech, a group of former Monticello FD chiefs lay a ceremonial wreath before the 9/11 monument that sits on the grounds of the department headquarters. Past Chief Albert Washington rang Signal 5 the traditional signal indicating that all responders have made it back to base safely.
MobileMedic’s Albee Bockman closed out the ceremony with a stirring rendition of “God Bless America,” and later shared his thoughts about the events of September 11, 2001 with the Democrat.
“It was just such a solemn day… something that all of us as first responders will always carry with us and it really does feel like it was only yesterday, but we don’t for even one second take this for granted,” he said.
Vice-Chair of the Sullivan County Legislature, Gene Benson, said, “It’s just like it happened yesterday… but we have to keep doing things like this so that people don’t forget. I mean, look what happened with Pearl Harbor, you don’t see much about Pearl Harbor anymore . . . you don’t see anything about D-Day anymore… this [9/11] cannot be forgotten.”