9/11 Memorial

Peter Haskell/WCBS 880

Never Forget: A Day Of Remembrance And Reverence On The 17th Anniversary Of 9/11

September 11, 2018 - 1:44 pm
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NEW YORK (WCBS 880/AP) -- Thousands turned out to commemorate the 17th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks Tuesday with a somber tribute at the site where World Trade Center's twin towers once stood.

WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell and Rich Lamb were at the 9/11 Memorial for the misty Tuesday morning ceremony, describing some powerful scenes for listeners and thinking back on some powerful memories of their own.

PHOTOS: September 11 Memorial Ceremony At The World Trade Center

The ceremony began with a moment of silence and tolling bells at 8:46 a.m., the time when the towers were hit by the first of two terrorist-piloted planes. Family members then read the victims' names, and the bell rang five more times to mark moments of silence for the time the South Tower was struck, the time that planes crashed into the Pentagon and a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, and the time the Twin Towers each fell.

“We love you,” “You’ll never be forgotten,” and, “See you in heaven, dad,” were some of the messages written out at the memorial. Lamb said the words you heard there couldn’t help but touch your soul.

“The families whose fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, sons, daughters, and cousins were murdered on 9/11, far from forgetting those who are missing, read their names aloud; bring their memories to life here; their grief palpable in a quavering voice; their love on display for the world to see,” Lamb said.

Lamb noted that he himself lost friends on 9/11. One of them was the Rev. Mychal Judge, the chaplain of the FDNY who rode to ground zero on the back of a fire truck from his St. Francis parish on 31st Street. Judge was the victim number one, and was brought to St. Peter’s Church and placed on the altar by firefighters.

Haskell covered Judge’s funeral the following Saturday.

“Funerals can be very difficult to cover; very moving; very emotional, and I covered the funeral, and it ended, and I felt somehow that I’d escaped unscathed; that the emotion had not overtaken me. I went outside, and the hearse was there and the bagpipes, and I walked as the hearse and the bagpipes got from 31st Street to Seventh Avenue – I had a live report to do,” Haskell said.

He continued: “There were hundreds – hundreds of people on each of the four corners applauding as the hearse came through – people who didn’t know Father Judge; who had read about his story; who had heard about him; who felt compelled to go out there. And it was so moving, and so overwhelming. I had a live report to do. I was so choked up I could barely breathe, and somehow managed to tell what was unfolding in front of me.”

Seventeen years later, thousands of people were paying respects to their loved ones. Many people were placing flowers on the names of their loved ones that are inscribed in the memorial, or breaking off the stems and placing the stems on the names.

“It is visually stunning to see the parapets covered with flowers,” Haskell said.

Lamb noted “the deeply human touches” as speakers remembered their loved ones and “their smiles, their laughs, their big personalities, their skill at sports.”

“It makes them real. It makes you understand what is missed, and the depth of the ache in their hearts,” Lamb said.

Haskell also noted how many people went missing after 9/11.

“So many 20- and 30-something-year-olds; their bright eyes; their big smiles – their lives ahead of them, taken in an instant, and that loss is palpable on the plaza,” Haskell said.

In talking to family members, Haskell said, “You can see it in their eyes. You can hear it in their voices. You can feel it in their souls. The missed weddings, and Christmases, and bar mitzvahs, and confirmations, and when the family gets together, there’s still something missing 17 years later.”

Mark Cannizzaro read the name of his cousin, Brian, who was an FDNY firefighter.

“I was just very proud to be able to do so,” Cannizzaro said. “I come to the ceremony every year, and I watch, and I listen, and being given the opportunity to stand up there and read my cousin’s name just gave me a sense of pride. You know, some of his family, it’s still too emotional for them to come here, so for me to be able to do this for him and for them, it was an honor.”

Brian Cannizzaro had a 10-month-old son at the time of the attack. Even though the now-teenage boy has no firsthand memory of his father, Mark has done his best to make sure the young man knows his father just the same.

Charles Wolf lost his wife, Katherine, 40 at the time, on 9/11. He comes back year after year “to honor her, to honor all the victims, to see other family members, to see the public officials that I worked with and all the work I did… it’s a little bit like old home week in a sense.”

Rob Fazio told WCBS 880's Sean Adams he returns every year to the memorial because he finds strength there. He said he communes with his father’s positive energy.

Ronald Fazio was known as the man in the South Tower lobby who held the door so others could escape.

“Those little things, you know, just walking around and teaching kids the value of helping one another and reaching out and having the courage to help someone or literally just holding the door for someone opens up so many doorways, so to speak,” Fazio said of his father’s memory.

Inspired by his father, Fazio started the Hold The Door For Others Foundation, in an effort to help people grieve and heal.

“We realize that there is so much adversity outside 9/11 and we've got a recipe for success in helping people believe in the right way,” he said.

And one girl of maybe 7 or 8 read the name of her grandmother and said, “Even though I never met you, I’ll never forget you,” Haskell reported.

A total of 2,743 people died at the World Trade Center.

Lamb honored the first responders who rushed to the scene – 343 firefighters died that day, and many more have died of diseases caused by the toxic air since.

Police officers from the Port Authority and the NYPD, and members of the military were also called upon. A total of 37 Port Authority officers and 23 NYPD officers died at the scene.

And Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Lamb noted, “became known by the nickname of ‘America’s mayor’ for being so steadfast in the midst of such a great disaster.”

Giuliani told Lamb stayed up at night reading Winston Churchill’s words during World War II in the wake of 9/11.

Lamb said Giuliani “realized that the people of London, if they could take that bombing, night after night, New York was going to survive. New York was going to make it, even as dire as this disaster was.”

Haskell and Lamb also recalled the days after 9/11. On Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2001, Haskell remembered, “everything was caked with inches of fine, powdery silt, pulverized concrete, and who knows what else.”

The remains of the Twin Towers themselves were in sight, along with the tridents that made up the skin of the buildings.

“Those tridents were pitchforked into buildings all around this site, and if you think about a dense piece of cake, and putting a fork in the side of it, that’s what it looked like 20 or 30 stories up,” Haskell said.

On Friday, Sept. 14, President George W. Bush came up, and Lamb was in the motorcade covering his appearance. The motorcade ended up behind the wreck of a fire truck at ground zero.

“The president stood up on the back of that fire truck with a bullhorn, you’ll remember, and he was speaking, and there was a group of construction workers maybe 50 yards away, and they couldn’t hear his bullhorn, and they said, ‘We can’t hear you,’” Lamb said. “And then the president turned and said, ‘Well, I can hear you.’ And then he said, ‘The guys who knocked these buildings down are going to hear from all of us shortly,’ and these construction workers were chanting, ‘U.S.A.! U.S.A.! and cheering the president. What an unbelievable scene that was.”

After that, Bush met with some of the families at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, and the motorcade went down 42nd Street. Both sides of the street were lined with people holding candles in the night.

“The emotion was just overwhelming – that you understood that the nation was with us, and that the people of New York felt this tremendous agony that was now recognized by the national government,” Lamb said. “It was just a moment that was filled with sublimity, but just overwhelming.”

And of course, many people wanted to step in to give blood or volunteer in any way they could.

“We were all together, common ideals, common goals, common strengths,” Haskell said.

Following the reading of the names Tuesday morning came the long, mournful, note of taps, as all of the uniformed personnel placed their white-gloved hands to their foreheads.

Meanwhile, many rubbed their fingers over the inscriptions of the names of their loved ones.

“There are concentric circles of grief. There’s the buddy you played basketball with; the friends you played cards with; you know, the people you saw at church every Sunday. People feel that loss beyond the immediate family. They feel it on 9/11 every year. They feel it on all those times they would be together with somebody that they cared about; somebody they loved; somebody they appreciated; somebody they know, and it’s a loss that’s felt day after day,” Haskell said.

While services were held in Lower Manhattan, President Donald Trump and first lady Melania joined an observance at the Sept. 11 memorial in that field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where one of the jetliners fell to the ground after 40 passengers and crew members realized hijackers had taken control and tried to storm the cockpit.

Calling it "the moment when America fought back," Trump said the fallen "took control of their destiny and changed the course of history."

They "joined the immortal ranks of American heroes," said Trump.

Pence recalled the heroism of service members and civilians who repeatedly went back into the Pentagon to rescue survivors.

The terrorists "hoped to break our spirit, and they failed," he said.

On 9/11, international terrorism hit home in a way it previously hadn't for many Americans. Sept. 11 still shapes American policy, politics and everyday experiences in places from airports to office buildings, even if it's less of a constant presence in the public consciousness after 17 years.

The 9/11 commemorations are by now familiar rituals, centered on reading the names of the dead. But each year at ground zero, victims' relatives infuse the ceremony with personal messages of remembrance, concern and inspiration.

Debra Sinodinos, who lost her firefighter cousin Peter Carroll and works near the trade center, said she tries not to let the recent attacks unnerve her.

"You have to move on," she said as she headed into the anniversary ceremony with her extended family. "Otherwise, you'd live in fear."

This year's anniversary comes as a heated midterm election cycle kicks into high gear. But there have long been some efforts to separate the solemn anniversary from politics.

The group 9/11 Day, which promotes volunteering on an anniversary that was declared a national day of service in 2009, routinely asks candidates not to campaign or run political ads for the day. Organizers of the ground zero ceremony allow politicians to attend, but they've been barred since 2011 from reading names or delivering remarks.

But Haskell and Lamb noted that divided as the country may be, that spirit is of unity that New York and the nation saw after the attacks can still be found. Lamb noted that a speaker at the ceremony Tuesday said firefighters were headed to North Carolina ahead of the threat of Hurricane Florence.

“That goodness still overflows from that horrible event,” Lamb said.

“There is goodness, there is sacrifice, there is doing the right thing, there is doing the kind thing, there is helping your fellow man – that’s what so many people spoke about. Come together, be caring, be helpful – the person across from you, it doesn’t matter,” Haskell added. “They’re another human being. Treat them kindly.”

On Tuesday night, two powerful light beams will soar into the night sky from Lower Manhattan in the annual “Tribute in Light.”

(© 2018 WCBS 880. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)