PARSIPPANY — The Township of Parsippany-Troy Hills held “September 11th: A Day of Remembrance” to observe the 18th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks against the nation.
Seven Parsippany residents died in the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Many of them were husbands, wives and parents, but all of them were neighbors and friends in the Parsippany community.
Parsippany’s Chief of Staff, Matthew Clarkin, started with the welcoming remarks, followed by the National Anthem by Cantor Lois Kittner, Adath Shalom. The Pledge of Allegiance was performed by Township Clerk Khaled Madin.
Keynote Speaker was Brian Wheelock, EMT, First Responder to Ground Zero. Rev. Donald Bragg, Pastor, Parsippany Presbyterian Church offered benediction.
Mayor Michael Soriano read off the names of Parsippany residents.
Boryczewski was remembered as a life-of-the-party type, who loved hanging out with friends as much as he loved his trading job. He grew up in Parsippany, and frequently came home to visit his family, whom he was close with. Read more here.
Duger was a devoted mother in a close knit Italian family, who she loved cooking for. She cared deeply for those around her; some of her last words were, “I don’t want them to worry,” her sister said. Read more here.
Michael John Pescherine
Perscherine and his wife were expecting a baby at the time of his death, due in March 2002, something that cause him to “scream in delight.” He was remembered as an athlete who loved watching the Giants. Read more here.
Thomas H. Polhemus
Thomas Polhemus was remember as loving golf nearly as much as he loved his wife and two sisters. He played through rain and snow three times a week, and would travel to Myrtle Beach to play with friends. Read more here.
Maria Theresa Santillan
Maria Santillan was in the middle of planning her wedding to her high school sweetheart when she died. She had long dreamed of working in New York City, and often commuted with her father to the PATH station. Read more here.
Michael C. Sorresse
Sorresse was deeply proud of working in the World Trade Center, something he’d tell people as they spotted the towers from the Turnpike. He was a family man who has just bought a home in Morris County. Read more here.
Jason Kyle Jacobs
Jason Kyle Jacobs worked in the World Trade Center. He was a partner in Fiduciary Trust Co. and worked in Tower 2. Survivors originally listed: Wife, Jennifer; Daughter, Zoe; Father, Charles; Mother, Marilyn; and Brother, Seth. Read more here.
8:46 a.m. – American Airlines Flight #11 crashes into the World Trade Center
9:03 a.m. – United Airlines Flight #175 crashes into the World Trade Center South Tower
9:37 a.m. – American Airlines Flight #77 crashes into the U.S. Pentagon
10:03 a.m. – United Airlines Flight #93 crashes in Sharksville, PA
10:28 a.m. – World Trade Center North Tower Collapses
Brian Wheelock, EMT, First Responder to Ground Zero delivered the following speech:
Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to hold this moment sacred, because part of what I wanted to talk about today was just how important it is to do this—to continue to hold this moment as a priority in our hearts and in our minds.
I’ll never forget that day, September 11th—the moment myself and another EMT from a squad down in Holmdel, my partner Chip Meyers, approached ground zero. It was a little bit later in the day, 7pm, starting to get dark. I remember as we approached—I remember the flashing lights of the ambulance, normally you see reflect off buildings, but they began to bounce back in our faces more and more because the cloud of dust and smoke in the air was beginning to fill in.
Even as we arrived blocks and blocks away nothing could have ever mentally prepared me for what I was about to see. I was 26 at the time. I wasn’t married with kids like I am now. Sometimes I wonder if that call came in today would I still have run in there? Would I still have forged ahead? Part of me says no way, I have a wife and a family, but these first responders here will tell you something happens at that moment, and you just do it. You take over. You know there are people there in need and you have to go.
I remember I opened the ambulance door. We weren’t prepared. We didn’t have masks, we didn’t have special gear. And the wave of dust that came over me was overwhelming. In fact we were being flagged down by a police officer for somebody that was outside having difficulty breathing. So as I grabbed the oxygen and was trying to help this person breathe, I myself was having trouble.
As we made our way down to ground zero, parked the ambulance and let that person return to their home, as they were able to breathe on their own again, we parked the ambulance and began to walk through that scene we’ve all seen—the pile. And it was just something that will always stick in my mind. I remember looking down and seeing a woman’s high heeled shoe on the ground and saying ‘where’s the woman?’ I can’t even explain what we saw that day. But there were feet and feet that we had to go through to get there. I remember making our way around the pile to the lobby of a hotel that had been made into a hospital. And it was fully staffed. You had nurses, doctors, IVs ready, lights, you wouldn’t know except a few signs that you were in the lobby of a hotel. But the one thing that was notably missing was the patients. Everybody was ready, but the patients were not there. Because we know how difficult it was to find anybody at that time.
Finally the report came in that they were pulling people out on the other side of the rubble. They requested those with ambulances to follow a caravan to the other side of the pile. We jumped in our ambulance and tried to follow this caravan with several other ambulances in front of us. With the amount of dust that was kicking up you couldn’t see more than a few feet in front of you. So here we are in lower Manhattan with nothing recognizable, no street signs, nothing to tell you where you were. Being from New Jersey, our radio could not communicate with New York at that time. I sat there literally in this disaster scene saying to my partner, ‘we are not doing well here, breathing all of this stuff in, we have nothing we can’t even get where we’re trying to go. Maybe we should abort this mission and go back to New Jersey.’ We sat there for a moment and then said it’s time. We had been there for several hours by that time. But those 3 hours I spent there would literally change my life forever.
As of this day, I have 6 certified illnesses that they attribute to 9/11. 4 of them physical, 2 of them PTSD and things. More for me its worry about the future—what does the future hold for me and my family. That’s what I struggle with on a daily basis. Thankfully none of those illnesses are life threatening, and I thank God for that. It was disturbing to me to find out shortly after we came the ambulance we brought with us that day, the engine ceased and it could no longer be used, because of all that it inhaled. And I think to myself, we were there the same amount of time. You may have heard in the news around this time that the number of first responders that have passed away and others in lower Manhattan is approaching the number that died that day, and that’s a tough, tough thing to swallow.
But for those we’ve lost and those we continue to lose, we have an obligation to hold this moment sacred as we are all doing right now. You’ll all remember the phrase “Never Forget.” Never forget—that was everywhere. But I want to add something to that—“Always Remember.” Because there actually is a difference. Meriam Webster defines “forget” is to lose remembrance of or be able to think of or recall. The definition of “remember” is a little different. To cause something to come back into your mind. And as painful as this is, especially for family and those that are here who may have lost somebody, this is painful to do. But we need to do this together.
Here we are 18 years later. This September 11th, maybe not for us, but for a lot of people, is just starting to look like every other day. My wife and I have Back to School Night tonight. People I know have work meetings and things they had to be at this morning. You go back 5 to 7 years this day was still held more sacred. Things were not scheduled as they are now. Things are creeping in to sacred territory. We need to fight to keep this day a sacred part of the DNA of our country. Even one of my daughters had a science experiment going on at the middle school today, and we said, you know what, she needs to be there. 2 of my daughters are here in fact one of them has a dentist appointment, sorry, I think I warned her.
But we need to remember that 9/11 is, again, part of our country’s DNA. And if next year, we have to be somewhere and sometimes we may have to be somewhere, at 8:46 when the first plane hit, we may need to take a moment and pause, and say, you know what, raise our hand if we’re in a sales meeting [pause for bell ringing] ‘people, friends, coworkers, let’s take a moment, this is sacred moment, let’s take just 5 minutes out of what we’re doing and reflect for a moment. You’d be surprised how people might respond.
I remember 8 years ago today, September 11th, 2011, I happened to be flying home from a wedding in Ireland. I lived in Ireland years and years before that. I was on a flight that was landing in Newark airport at 11:25 in the morning on September 11th on the 10 year anniversary. Packed plane. 747 full of people. I got this overwhelming feeling that we have all these people together, its approaching 9:00, we need to honor this in some way. But here I am with strangers, people I don’t know from every walk, of life, every race, every religion was represented. There were a few hundred people there. Sometime you get that that nudge—I call it a nudge from above—you have to get out of your seat. Sometimes you don’t want to do that. I didn’t want to do it that day. But I felt a nudge to ask the flight attendant if I could say something over the loudspeaker. If we could hold this moment sacred. Pray. Something to acknowledge this moment that we had together. Of course I didn’t think they were going to go for this. Post 9/11 we know the rules. But I did it anyway. I explained that I was a first responder on 9/11 and how important this moment was to me and that I thought we should all share it together and acknowledge it in some way. She looked at me like I was crazy and she said I’m going to ask the pilot and see what he says. And she picked up that little phone and told him the situation and then turned to me and said “he said yes. Are you ready?” “Let me run to the bathroom,” I said “and gather my thoughts.” [as I did this morning, but TMI.] But it was an important moment to do that. And she walked me to the front of a 747 and she said ‘ladies and gentlemen, a passenger wants to address the plane.’ Now I have a feeling they were more concerned than they should have been at that moment. But I got on the loudspeaker and I explained that I was a 9/11 first responder and that we were approaching that exact moment 10 years later. And I said ‘I think this is an important moment. I know we have many walks of life here. I happen to be a Christian but we have people from every religion and faith here. We all need to take a moment of silence and if you don’t mind let’s bow our heads, I’ll pray for a safe landing and that we can heal from this tragedy. I couldn’t even believe the response. Everybody, no matter what color they were, or gender, they all bowed their heads and we shared that moment together. When I completed that everybody applauded. And I had just prayed for protection, and that God would give us the strength to heal. And remember that moment was sacred. And people kept coming up to me and thanking me for making the point of making the moment sacred.
The next 9/11 it may be your turn. Maybe you won’t be on a 747, maybe you’ll be somewhere else, a meeting, or at school. But we have to make the point of taking that sacred moment. Because I can tell you, the families who have lost people—they can’t do it alone. The first responders that were there that day that may be much more ill than me—they can’t do it alone. We need eachother to lean on. And we need to engage and learn eachothers stories in order to heal from this tragedy.
Always remember is to cause something to come back into your mind. And I think this country needs that right now. Remember what it was like after 9/11? Remember every other car had American flag on it? Remember the patriotism we felt that day? We need that again and each one of us can make a difference in bringing that back. I truly believe in sharing our past, and loving on one another like we are doing here today will bring great hope and healing to our future.
God bless you all and thank you so much.