We shall never forget! That was the message community leaders in Canarsie delivered at a memorial service hosted by The Newton Foundation and Brooklyn Jefferson Lions Club on Saturday, September 10th, in honor of the victims who perished in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.
Twenty-one years later, guests sitting on folding chairs in Canarsie Park, listened to speakers recount in vivid detail where they were the moment two airplanes, commandeered by cowardly zealots, slammed into the Twin Towers, demolishing them. The crash resulted in the greatest loss of life in a single attack, by terrorists, anywhere. Despite the tragedy, the common message in each story was love, forgive, but never forget.
Dr. Judy D. Newton, of The Newton Foundation, emceed the event and later spoke of her personal anguish, resulting from that day’s tragedy. Particularly heartrending for the former NYPD detective was the death of a young officer whom she had trained and whose body, like so many others, was never recovered. “I went into that hole looking for bodies that were never there,” she recalled sadly.
Abdul Nicols, a Muslim by faith, was among the first to speak. In halting English, he stated, “We honor those that have fallen, but we don’t forget them. From our hearts, we honor them, our true heroes. They will always be our heroes. The Muslim community loves everybody, white, black, rich or poor.” The imam invited anyone interested in having a clear translation of the Quran to visit the Canarsie Islamic Center on East 85th Street.
District Leader Frank Seddio said he was in disbelief when he first heard what happened. “I thought it was a joke, but when a second plane crashed into the building minutes later, I knew then, we had a different world.” Seddio reminded those present, “We still have victims 21 years later. People are ill. People are getting ill. People have died.” He urged everyone “to use the memory of what happened to make where we live better for other people.”
State Senator Roxanne Persaud of the 19 Senatorial District agreed. She remembered, “After the attacks, we didn’t hate anyone. We all put our differences aside. That’s the place we have to get back to.” The senator paid homage to the NYPD, FDNY, clergy and Lions, all represented at the memorial and who suffered catastrophic losses on that fateful day. “We are all trying to make communities whole. We have something to remember from that day. Out of a tragedy, we all became one.”
For Assemblywoman Monique Chandler-Waterman, who represents the 58th Assembly District, 9/11 is a bittersweet occasion – one she could never forget. She explained that her usual commute to work took her past the World Trade Center, but she couldn’t go to work that day because she went into labor. She said, “Having my daughter saved my life and I thank God!”
Her counterpart, Assemblywoman Jaime Williams, of the 59th Assembly District, kept her remarks brief. “We should never forget what happened on 9/11. It is important that we continue to pay tribute to our fallen heroes.” This sentiment was echoed by Councilwoman Mercedes Narcisse, of the 46th Council District, who also insisted, “Love should not be shown only at the time of disaster, but every day. And we should never forget.”
Commanding Officer of the 69th Precinct, Captain Khandakar Abdullah, agreed and to underscore his point, read the names of NYPD personnel – sergeants, detectives, police officers – who perished on 9/11, as well as others who later succumbed to illnesses contracted while performing duty at Ground Zero. Captain Abdullah, who was accompanied by several of his uniformed officers, stated, “The men and women who ran into that building after seeing those fires did not think of their families. They did not think of their kids. They just ran in to do their best. They just ran in to do whatever they can to save whoever was in there and that’s what I signed up for, six years after the attacks.” The commanding officer ended his tribute to the fallen heroes by saying “God Bless our heroes. And God Bless America!”
Lucina Clarke, executive director of My Time Inc., encouraged all to build on the love and kindness expressed by everyone but, most importantly, to be kind to themselves first. “If we’re not kind to ourselves, how can we love or be kind to others?” she asked.
The event, which was co-sponsored by Persaud, Williams, Chandler-Waterman, Narcisse and Community 18 District Manager Sue Ann Partnow, concluded as it began, with a prayer for peace.