Reproduced from The Record

Monday, September 12, 2005

by Michael J. Wildes, Mayor, City of Englewood

2-10 N. Van Brunt Street

Englewood , NJ 07631


A Day of Grief and Healing

Monday, September 12, 2005


North Jerseyans on Sunday rang bells and sang, wept for the dead and hailed the living.

Their memorial services were hardly grand, but somehow fitting. Here was a sculpture, here a bouquet. They read memorial plaques that were far too easy to read - not enough time has passed for the sun and snow to leave their marks.

The first plane hit the World Trade Center at 8:46 a.m. As that moment neared Sunday in Closter, those taking part in the borough's Sept. 11 tribute saw a striking sculpture at Veterans Memorial Park.

There, a black slab of marble stands about 8 feet high with a keyhole-size opening centered near the 6-foot mark. A few feet away is a marble arch. Embedded between the legs of the arch rests a scrap of steel beam recovered from the Twin Towers.

As the rising sun peeks through the keyhole, it casts a 3-inch shard of light. The downward ray then creeps, inch by inch, across the gray flagstones toward the arch and the steel beam.

Engraved on the arch's frame are the names of two borough residents killed in the attacks: Ronald C. Fazio, 57, and Domenick Mircovich, 40.

Two bagpipers and a drummer struck up a mournful Irish tune. A group of Girl Scouts fidgeted; an elderly man let a single tear roll past his sunglasses, down his cheek. In all, more than 200 firefighters, borough officials and residents stood amid the lush green of pine and cedar trees in the park.

At 8:46 a.m., the light hit the gleaming scrap of steel, and the gathering fell silent.

Tony Lupardi, president of the Closter Volunteer Ambulance and Rescue Corps, read the engraving: "Let our grief become strength, our remembrances hope, our unity an enlightened path toward peace."

The memorial should be not merely a reminder of the attacks and of those who died, he said, but also the focus of healing.

"We need to remember the good things in the world," he said. "We need to remember all the good that Don Mircovich, Ron Fazio and the 2,750 other people did in this world.

"Because without that healing," he said, "our hearts will become much like the slab of marble in this memorial - cold, black, hard, with a hole in it."

In Englewood, Natalia Sanchez remembered her uncle, Alejandro Castano, as a person who always lit up a room.

"I admired the energy and excitement he brought into our lives," Sanchez recalled at services on the grounds of the Englewood Public Library.

He was a thrill-seeker who always tried new things and who loved his family very much.

"He showed each of us his undying love," said Sanchez, 14. "His memory will always inspire me."

Castano was one of five people from Englewood who died in the attack on the World Trade Center. He was making a delivery to the twin towers when the planes hit the buildings.

"Englewood lost many, many special people," Mayor Michael Wildes said.

The ceremony honored not only the victims and their families, but also local firefighters and EMTs who assisted New York City in the aftermath. Guests included residents of Leonia, which lost one resident.

A firefighter rang a bell at the moment each plane hit the World Trade Center and a trombonist played taps. Residents and city officials read poetry and vowed that terrorism never would change the character of the nation.

"As a nation of millions, we must never be cowered by the actions of a few," Wildes said.

He added that the nation faces a new challenge in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

"The devastation in the gulf states is one of the greatest national tragedies," Wildes said. "It demands the support of us as they rebuild their lives."

In Ridgewood, the stone memorial in Van Neste Square was decorated with two bunches of flowers and several foot-high American flags stuck into flower beds brimming with crimson chrysanthemums. The village lost 12 residents in the attacks.

At the opening of a memorial garden in River Edge, Herbert Ouida's eyes teared and he rubbed his face as he listened to a vivid recounting of the short yet eventful life of his 25-year-old son, Todd. There were his days at Cantor Fitzgerald, his achievements as a football player and his belief, at 5 feet 5 inches, that "the size of the heart is always going to be more important" than physical stature.

In addition to Ouida, the borough lost Bonseok Koo, Christopher Allingham, Jennifer Louise Fialko and Scott W. Rohner.

About 500 firefighters, residents and others gathered at Tenney and Elm avenues for the garden's dedication - an event that, in other circumstances, could have passed as a snapshot of small-town American life. Dogs barked, the low hum of crickets filled the air and a light breeze gently buffeted an American flag on a white pole.

The garden, created with about $70,000 in private money, includes a winding path, five plaques and a bench.

"It's almost comforting that people have the opportunity to mourn with us," Scott Rohner's mother, Katherine Rohner, said after touring the garden.

In Ridgefield Park, schoolchildren rang a bell to commemorate Peace Day, held every Sept. 11.

"We will always have this date etched in our minds," said Maureen Gibbs, a Peace Day organizer.

This year, the village held a drive to benefit the Elks, whose members are making

packages to send to soldiers in Iraq. The packages will include snacks, books, CDs and playing cards.

"This is the kind of community spirit we nurture," Mayor George Fosdick said.

Police officers placed the American flag in front of the Peace Bell.

"Hopefully next year when we ring that bell, we'll have a reason to ring that bell because there'll be peace," Gibbs said.

Fosdick said that some towns have canceled their commemoration of Sept. 11 and others apparently don't think one is necessary. But Fosdick said that was OK.

"It occurs to me that all of these differences are an expression of what we Americans cherish most: freedom," the mayor said.

At Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace Chapel in Haledon, a special service recalled those who perished and honored some of those who helped: emergency workers from Haledon, North Haledon and Wayne.

Police, firefighters and EMS workers, along with a handful of dignitaries, attended the Blue Mass, which is offered in honor of first responders. Amid hand-clapping and singing, the Rev. Louis Scurti told the crowd that the Gospel readings about forgiveness were chosen by the Roman Catholic Church decades ago, and not by the committee putting together the day's event.

"God has a hold on us and he's in charge, believe it or not," Scurti said. "When we saw the readings for today, we were humbled at God's challenge to us. After 9/11, we had so many emotions: fear, anger, justice, grief and revenge. But God is telling us that as Christians, we must not be vengeful."

A standing-room-only crowd packed the tiny butter-colored chapel, which sits on the William Paterson University campus and is normally a retreat for students. A bagpiper led the Passaic County Sheriff's Department honor guard.

Scurti said the memorial Mass, a three-year tradition, will continue.

"Why would it ever stop? We'll never stop remembering or honoring those who continue to serve us right here," he said.




Paid for by Friends of Michael J. Wildes, Claudia Colbert, Treasurer