The following remarks were given by South Orange Village President Sheena Collum at the September 11 20th Anniversary Remembrance ceremony on September 11, 2021.
Friends and Neighbors,
On behalf of the South Orange Board of Trustees – Bobby Brown, Donna Coallier, Bill Haskins, Karen Hilton, Summer Jones, and Bob Zuckerman, thank you for joining us as we come together to remember.
This past week, we saw pictures of kids going off to college to start a new chapter in their lives. Families gathered in dorm rooms, hanging posters, unfolding sheets from Ikea to fit a twin bed frame. These young adults weren’t even born yet. They have no recollection of September 11, 2001.
In fact, I was roughly their age on this morning 20 years ago and I remember.
I remember being a senior in high school in Mississippi with first period off. I had a dentist appointment at 10am so I was at home watching the news and having coffee.
I remember the breaking news reports that the north tower at the World Trade Center had been struck and rushing into the kitchen to tell my mom there had been a bad accident in New York City with a plane.
I remember being glued to the television set as the South Tower was then struck and the subsequent news reports that ensued suggesting an act of terrorism and President Bush confirming this 30 minutes later.
I drove to my high school to tell everyone what was going on running through the hallways. I drove back home to make calls to people I knew in New York and New Jersey. Text messages or Facebook weren’t a thing yet, I had a little Nokia flip phone and I remember the “all circuits are busy” message as I continued to dial and as tears poured down my face watching the images of the buildings – the people trying to escape and the heroes trying to make their way in.
No matter where you were 20 years ago, our lives would never be the same. For me, I lost my Uncle Sungho who had just wiped out his savings and took out loans to open a small jewelry and cosmetic shop a couple blocks away from ground zero. He suffered a heart attack exactly one month after 9/11 leaving behind his wife, who couldn’t speak English, and two very small children. My mom always says he died from a broken heart. Today I remember him but despite the sadness, his American dream can be seen through the eyes of his daughter who enlisted in the army a couple years ago – the army’s motto being, “This we’ll defend”. He would be so proud.
Twenty years ago was a moment of shared national grief that to this day, still binds us all together but not just as Americans or as communities across the country observing this day but as people. One people.
- Today and every day, may we remember the beautiful lives we lost at the World Trade Center, Pentagon and United Airlines Flight 93.
- Today and every day, may we remember and celebrate the first responders and their heroic acts of bravery. Those who sacrificed and were willing to sacrifice, their own lives to save others.
- Today and every day, may we remember the families who experienced loss beyond words. We see you and we remember your loved ones.
- Today and every day, let us pledge to honor those we have lost by our words and our actions, to embrace one another, to celebrate our differences, to live our lives with care and compassion and love in our hearts for each other.
Today and every day, we remember September 11th and we vow never to forget.