Christine Clark remembered her brother-in-law Bruce Van Hine — a dedicated Brooklyn firefighter and family man — as invincible.
He had fallen off a roof and been in a couple of car accidents but escaped serious injury.
“This was a man who didn’t get hurt,” she said.
On Sept. 11, 2001, Van Hine rushed to the site of the collapsing World Trade Center south tower. His body wasn’t found in the rubble until six months later — with helmet on and fire coat wrapped around another victim.
“Bruce was attempting to help a civilian to safety when he lost his life doing a job he loved so much,” Clark, a Schenectady County Family Court judge, said Sunday during “Schenectady Remembers: Moving Toward Peace.” The 9/11 memorial interfaith commemoration held at Schenectady’s Veterans Park was just one of many events held throughout the Capital Region to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks.
Clark said she felt compelled to speak publicly for the first time about her brother-in-law on the anniversary. She recalled that, in the weeks after the tragedy, her sister was shown incredible kindness. Van Hine’s fellow firefighters stopped by the house to see how she was doing.
“I have never felt the presence of God more than I did in the days and weeks [following],” she said. “There was a feeling that my sister and family were now safe.”
Clark recalled visiting ground zero a couple of weeks after the towers fell. “I thought we were standing in a war zone,” she said. “I couldn’t believe it was in New York City and I was standing in the United States.”
It was only recently that she was able to return to the site for the first time since 2001. She was inspired by the construction of the new tower and the public memorial.
She encouraged others to be kind and respect others. “Do not hate those that appear to be different from you.”
In quoting Psalm 30, Clark said “weeping may go on all night but joy comes in the morning.”
“I truly hope that joy comes for all of you in the morning,” she said.
Other speakers reflected on the theme of rebuilding and renewal. Ashok Ramasubramanian, a professor at Union College, read a passage from Hindu scripture and asked the audience to think of themselves as being in a frying pan.
“Sometimes our lives, certainly my life, feel like you are getting sauteed. There’s a lot of hardships,” he said. “While you are getting sauteed, the words of the Lord are like sweet nectar. They are a comfort.”
Humans grow through these difficult experiences, Ramasubramanian said.
Rabbi Matt Cutler of Congregation Gates of Heaven also shared a similar view, quoting from Psalm 23. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.”
Cutler pointed out that a valley has two high points. The tragedy of Sept. 11 was the low point and America has put this tragedy in perspective and is rising again.
Imam A. Yaki of the Islamic Center of Schenectady said, regardless of color or creed, everyone was in some way affected by the events of Sept. 11. The country will recover from the events of that day.
“By the will of God, we will triumph and leave a legacy of hope,” he said.
In Glenville, the fifth annual 9/11 memorial ceremony held at the Water’s Edge Lighthouse Restaurant was nearly canceled because of flooding of the Mohawk River caused by Hurricane Irene.
Owners Pat and Karen Popolizio and Jon Wells, the owner of Wells Nursery who assisted in the construction and landscaping of the monument, said they were frightened for the memorial that was erected on the Mohawk’s west bank in 2007.
Pat Popolizio said it was an act of God that kept the water one inch below the two steel beams and American flag from ground zero. “We were lucky.”
The Popolizios and numerous local volunteers worked hard and fast to put the restaurant back in orderly condition in the weeks before Sunday’s event.
“I am so honored to have so many people feel the same way as I do about our country and to see the support,” Pat Popolizio said. “It was very obvious during the storm. We received over 300 calls from people who wanted to come down and help us clean the mess we had.”
More than 100 people attended Sunday morning’s event, including local police officers, fire officials and members of several local military units and veterans’ groups.
Several public officials also spoke at the ceremony, many remarking on the nation’s resilience after 10 years.
U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, said Americans should always remember the tragedy, but also the country’s comeback story as the new memorial was dedicated in New York City.
“We saw a people continue to work — to restore and recover that sight at the World Trade Center,” Tonko said. “We saw a people commit their talents and their energies to the military as to defend this nation and freedom-loving nations around the world and we saw still others commit to the cause so we shall never forget.”
The work after Sept. 11, according to Tonko, would forever remind Americans of why they love their communities and what it means to live in the United States.
Glenville Supervisor Chris Koetzle said the day must be more than a history lesson but “be sewn into the very fabric of our nation’s culture — not just by remembering — but by living up to our American values every single day in service to our country, service to our community and the love we show our families.”
Assemblyman James Tedisco, R-Glenville, explained how he believes the United States was always and will remain the greatest country in the world.
The ceremony concluded with the reading of the names of the local residents who died during the attacks and with Steven Cafiero of Glenville doing his annual reading of poetry he wrote for his son, Steven Cafiero Jr., who died when the south tower of the World Trade Center collapsed.
Pamela Mennillo Zilka of Glenville attended the event and said she does each year in support of the Cafiero family. They attend the same church in Rotterdam Junction.
“It was just a horrific day,” she said. “I come for Steven and to show my love for this country.”
In Saratoga County, Saratoga Arts held a private ceremony at the office of NS Associates in Gansevoort to recognize the efforts of all the volunteers and donors who supported the construction of the “Tempered by Memory” 25-foot-tall steel sculpture commemorating the 9/11 tragedy. The company manufactured the artwork, which does not yet have a permanent home as the city has not selected a site.
Albany held a 9/11 ceremony at 3:15 p.m. as part of its Riverfront Jazz Festival.
At Union College, students participated in an event called “Building Bridges Toward Better Understanding” at the Nott Memorial. Students Elite Williams and Sulay Lora and Kenney Center Director Angela Tatem and her assistant Marissa Tanner had built a replica of a bridge made of Styrofoam and fabric.
Students wrote on index cards an idea of how they will work to break down barriers between people of different backgrounds and build bridges of understanding during the school year.
A half-dozen students spoke about their experiences and advice for building a bridge. Junior Amin Meyghani said he wished people were more sensitive to people of other cultures. He often does not want to tell people he is from Iran because of the perception painted in the media of the country, its politicians and what it means to be a Muslim.
“The people of my country are so different than the government,” he said.
Junior Kadiatou Tubman agreed that more understanding between people of different cultures is needed. “In order to build bridges, we need to start listening to each other,” she said.
Earlier that morning, volunteers harvested vegetables from the colleges Octopus’s Garden to donate to the flood victims of Hurricane Irene.
Other colleges also commemorated the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute held a remembrance ceremony at the Rensselaer Union featuring remarks by President Shirley Ann Jackson and chaplains Imam Djafer Sebkhaoui and the Rev. Beth Illingworth, singing from the student a capella group, ROTC Color Guard presentation of the flags and a moment of silence.
The College of Saint Rose also held an interfaith prayer service.
The Veterans Park ceremony had particular meaning for Kelly and Jim Dutcher of Rotterdam, whose nephew was killed in Iraq in 2007.
Kelly Dutcher said she appreciated the opportunity to honor all of those who have lost lives in the cause of freedom. She was glad the country has not experienced another attack.
“It’s still scary. We still try to go on with our lives but you still have that in the back of your mind.”