On Saturday morning, residents, local officials and Rye Fire Department staff came together to recognize the 20th anniversary of 9-11. The commemoration ceremony included remarks from Rye Major Josh Cohn and a reading of the names from Rye FD Captain John McDwyer.
Rev. Monsignor Donald M. Dwyer of the Church of the Resurrection and Rye FD Chaplain Andrea Raynor both had blessings and words of remembrance. Other officials that spoke were Congressman Jamaal Bowman, State Assemblyman Steve Otis and Westchester County Legislator Catherine Parker.
A common theme among all the speakers was how 9-11 brought our country and our community together – and how this togetherness is something we need more than ever in a time of polarization. Assemblyman Otis made a point of the ways the Rye community has made certain we will never forget, including the Rye Rangers Memorial Cup, the September 11th Memorial Gazebo, and the Chris Mello Award presented each year at the time of the Rye – Harrison football game.
W. Ward Haynes
Gary E. Koecheler
Francis N. McGuinn
Robert McLaughlin, Jr.
Christopher D. Mello
George W. Morell
Sean Gordon O’Neill
Thomas A. Palazzo
Michael J. Simon
Allen V. Upton
The video of each speaker and Mayor Josh Cohn’s and State Assemblyman Steve Otis’ full remarks are available below:
Comments of Rye Mayor Josh Cohn:
This 9/11 marks two decades since the actual tragic day that so many lives were lost and so many other lives were irrevocably changed. The two decades beg us to take stock of what happened twenty years ago, of where we have been since and of what we might do in relation to 9/11 as we go forward.
The sheer shock of that act of hate has worn off. The understanding of that enmity is now a part of us. We are fatigued. We know that as hard as we may try, some will be profoundly committed against us. It is my hope that we will still try. I am not suggesting one foreign policy initiative or another. That is beyond me. I am suggesting, though, that as we as a people face challenges, both domestic and foreign, that we do so with our eyes fixed on our moral compass and with confidence in ourselves as a nation and a people.
I emphasize the phrase “a people.” It is common in 9/11 speeches to dwell on the terrific sense of unity among us that that awful day in 2001 brought to us. Yet we have seen that sense of unity fade and we seem to confront ourselves with ever more bickering. Nonetheless, we need to know, and we do, that when needed that oneness will rise and we will pull together. E pluribus unum remains our way, as a collection of states and as a diverse body of people.
We tend to think of 20 years or so as the span of a generation. And so we have with us a generation without any personal recollection of 9/11/2001. We must recognize that with each passing year we will lose more who were there, or who were changed by the day, and who can share the story with those who were not in the personal way that resonates most clearly. A few days ago I met here in Rye Paulie Veneto, the former airline cabin attendant on the route of the Boston to LA flight that was hijacked into the side of the World Trade Center. Paulie, in remembrance of his friends who perished on that flight on that day, has just walked from Boston’s Logan Airport to Ground Zero, talking to people about his friends and just what happened on 9/11/2001. Paulie is showing us that we need to tell the story, that we need to make it personal to make it resonate and that we must not forget each and every individual who faced the unthinkable, from the airline crews who fought the terrorists, to the passengers, to the victims on the ground, to the first responders who have paid an awful price for the good they attempted to do. We owe all of them that.
I want to thank all of you for coming today and taking part in our community act of remembrance.
Comments of Assemblyman Steve Otis
We are joined here today by a common desire and bond to honor together the precious members of our community taken from us twenty years ago.
We are all drawn to think about today in many different ways. We share many conflicting emotions at the same time.
Marking twenty years also brings an added layer of reflection.
This community was so terribly shaken by September 11, 2001. At the time we came together in shock, fear, love for those killed and love for their families.
Days after the attack we gathered together on the village green for an evening candlelight vigil led by clergy from throughout Rye, probably one of the most crowded events held on that lawn. We mourned, prayed and cried together.
The memorial services for the fallen were at capacity, often with many standing in the back or at the sides of the house of worship.
In December 2001 we honored three of Rye’s fallen who were hockey players with a memorial hockey game to benefit their families. It was attended by hundreds.
In individual ways, we all reached out to comfort and help the families and friends in that moment of shock and need.
Later, in the effort led by the families of those who died, we built our September 11th Memorial Gazebo that includes the signatures of the fourteen members of the Rye family taken from us. Rich in Rye history, the gazebo is a reproduction of the gazebo that once stood behind the Square House from the early days of the last century until the 1930s.
Later the Chris Mello Award was created and continues to be part of the Rye Harrison football game.
We honor the first responders everywhere. The sacrifices they made on September 11 are the sacrifices all first responders are prepared to make as they do their jobs on a daily basis.
The twenty-year mark amplifies the magnitude of the loss. Twenty years of time without friends and family. Twenty years of missed occasions, births, weddings, graduations, the moments of family and community life where their absence is felt.
Our responsibility as a community and as individuals is to remember these beloved people as we knew them, as they lived, as they were part of our lives. Think of them in happier days, in the activities we shared, in the laughter and joy of family and friendship. We can remember them best and honor them most fully by making them live today in the memories we choose, the moments of joy we summon back, in our reflecting on the fullness of their lives and what we continue to miss today.