As the sun shone down on the 9/11 monument at Riverlink Park in Amsterdam on Saturday morning, speakers recalled how September 11, 2001 started off the same way–beautiful blue skies.
Twenty years later, Americans are still dealing with the terrorist attacks that killed 2,996 and injured many more. Throughout the Capital and Mohawk Valley regions, many remembrance ceremonies took place throughout the day Saturday, from Schenectady Fire Department’s draping flags on their trucks to 5k runs and walks to support first responders.
Around 9 a.m. several officials, students, first responders and members of the public gathered around the Amsterdam monument to honor the lives lost.
The monument features concrete and steel columns from the P3 parking level of the World Trade Center’s North Tower. The memorial site where it is erected is just 100 yards west of where Flight 11 would have passed over the Amsterdam area.
“Today should always be about those who sacrificed their lives and not the terrorists who took them,” said Amsterdam Mayor Michael Cinquanti. “It should always be about remembering and honoring the lives and the achievements and the heroic, valiant behavior of the thousands of innocent Americans who kissed their families goodbye, got in their cars, took a subway or boarded a plane and went to work like they did every weekday morning but never came home.”
Cinquanti recalled losing his friend, former Schenectady Police Superintendent Charles Mills. Mills was killed while attempting to rescue people from the World Trade Center.
“He was a joy to know,” Cinquanti said. “He was so positive about life, about people, so unafraid of anything.”
During this year’s ceremony, Cinquanti wanted to include students from the school district. Several of them spoke about what 9/11 means to them. All of the students’ remarks focused on never forgetting what happened.
Maddie Miller, 9, got up to the microphone and read a poem:
R is for responders who risked their lives for all
E is for emotions that are still felt today
M is for the memories that will never fade away
E is for the everlasting impact that the heroes leave today
M is for the many people who lost their lives that day
B is for the bravery that was shown in many ways
E is for the heroes who continue to show up each day
R is for reflecting upon the impact still felt today
Later in the morning at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1895 in Rotterdam, keynote speaker John Kusisto recalled being at Ground Zero.
“I remember it as if it was yesterday,” he said.
Kusisto, now retired, was the chief of the Coxsackie Rescue Squad. He was having a cup of coffee with his wife and a neighbor when news of the attack broke. It wasn’t long after he got a call asking him to prepare emergency medical personnel to bring supplies down to Westchester. Those orders soon changed and he was directed to Ground Zero.
He said driving along the George Washington Bridge was eerie.
“We were the only ones on the bridge,” he said.
Kusisto said as they waited about three miles from Ground Zero for more orders he walked a couple of blocks. He saw first responders leaning against buildings covered in dust. Rubble lay everywhere. Paper too. Cars were flipped over and crushed.
“It was like a war zone,” he said.
He remembered people thanking them for helping and a long fence lined with so many pieces of paper with names and faces of missing people that there was no room left to hang anything else.
Kusisto said he never wants to see something like that again. Yet, when asked if he’d ever go down to help again, he said, “In a heartbeat.”