Generations of Cortlandt residents packed Cortlandt Town Hall for a ten year 9/11 anniversary ceremony filled with patriotism and reverence today.
More than 100 community members listened to many speakers who addressed the importance of a paying tribute to those lost, those serving locally as emergency responders here at home and those serving our country at war. The day was filled with inspirational music, and speeches appreciative of first responders, military and community support.
“These (men and women) are dedicated to saving lives and assisting those in need,” Supervisor Puglisi told the crowd.
“And we are dedicated to them and are dedicated to men and women defending us and our freedom.”
Guest speaker Richard Funchion, a Village of Buchanan trustee and 9/11 survivor, told his story of that tragic day. He was a customs officer at the World Trade Center sitting in his office going through a regular routine when the first plane hit.
“The whole world turned white for a few seconds,” Funchion said. “And then there was the explosion and the violent shaking of the whole world around you.”
Funchion described the constant stream of sirens heading towards downtown Manhattan and the faces of the police and firefighters who headed straight towards the destruction.
“Every policeman and fire fighter I saw probably died and I’ll never forget their faces.”
Funchion explained that he was lucky to have escaped the WTC as quickly as he did and that workers in the lobby of the building died instantly as well as those at the top. As Funchion explained that jet fuel came down the elevator shafts of the WTC, the Chaplain for the Croton Fire Department, John Coyne, who was standing in the front of the group, dropped to the ground.
The audience gasped as Dr. Richard Becker, Cortlandt Town board member and Congresswoman Nan Hayworth, who is also a doctor, as well as several firefighters rushed to his aid. Within ten minutes Coyne was conscious and taken to the hospital. He had fainted, most likely due to low blood sugar, Dr. Becker said. The ceremony continued once Coyne was brought to an ambulance on a stretcher.
“We will certainly keep John in our prayers today,” Supervisor Linda Puglisi said. Funchion continued, ending by expressing his gratitude for all firefighters and police, especially the ones standing behind him at the ceremony.
“I don’t know how to say thank you,” Funchion said. Then he turned and said thank you.
The room of veterans, community members and political officials stood to give their local heroes an inspired round of applause.
Rabbi Lee S. Paskind of the First Hebrew Congregation and Chaplain Eric Olsen, U.S. Army and Air Force, led the crowd in prayers following Funchion’s story.
Leo Wiegman, Mayor of Croton-on-Hudson arrived from the Tough Man’s Competition for the and presented the crowd with an American flag with all of the names of those lost on 9/11 written on it, given to him by the organizers of the competition.
Several more speakers addressed the crowd, many emphasized the importance of the BCC Memorial and thanked the 20 person task force working to raise funds for the project.
It’s architect, James Rhodes, who is donating his expertise, presented a video on the memorial, titled “Reaching Through the Shadow.” He explained how the memorial will mean something different for each person that visits, just as the tragic events of 9/11 mean something different to each person. The sculpture is designed to inspire people in many different ways.
Rhodes told the group:
“To the patriotic, you’ll find honor, the religious will find reverence, the unfamiliar will find a lesson, the scientific will find a sundial, the artistic, a sculptor; the boater a landmark…and the troubled will find peace.”
James A Burns, Former NYS Fire Administrator and Former Chief of Verplanck Fire Department read the “Firefighter’s Creed."
The ceremony also featured several musical performances by the Peekskill Area Pastors Association Inter-faith choir, the Taghkanic Corale and a 13-year-old singer, songwriter and musician Christopher McGinnis, who blew the audience away with his “The War Son An American Hero.” Girl Scout Tropp 1262 from Frank G. Lindsey Elementary School lead the Pledge of Allegiance.
Additional speakers included: New York State Congresswoman Nan Hayworth, Westchetser County Legislator John Testa, Assemblywoman Sandy Galef, Cortlandt Council members John Sloan, Dr. Richard Becker and Frank Farrell. The benediction was given by Bishop Michael Champion, President of the Peekskill Area Pastors Association.