Story by Lourice Angie
The Warwick Fire Department (WFD) assembled on Tues., Sept. 11 joined by local officials, dignitaries, members of the Warwick Police and Volunteer EMT, veterans and community members to commemorate the 17th anniversary of the devastating 9/11 terror attacks on the nation.
The ceremony, which is held annually at the 9/11 Memorial in Veterans Memorial Park in the Village of Warwick, honors fallen heroes, the innocent victims who perished, including seven Warwick residents, along with the selfless group of recovery workers who helped with the rescue efforts at ground zero during the aftermath.
Nearly 3,000 people lost their lives in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001 when hijacked planes crashed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field near Shanksville, PA. Among those innocently killed on that horrific day were the following seven residents of the Warwick community: FDNY members: Battalion Chief John P. Williamson, Lt. Michael N. Fodor, Lt. John F. Ginley, Lt. Stephen G. Harrell, and Firefighter Bruce Van Hine; Linda Kristine Gronlund, an attorney who was a passenger on Flight 93; and Peter Mark Gyulavary, an engineer who worked on the 91st floor of the South Tower.
For 17 years these names have been remembered and honored in Warwick, as in NYC and many other parts of the nation, where several moments are observed throughout the day. As the community stood with hands held over their hearts for the National Anthem, the beautiful music accompaniment of the song echoed throughout the park at the 9/11 Memorial Monument. Warwick Fire Department Chief Jason Brasier thanked everyone for attending commemoration ceremony.
“We gather as a community as so many in the nation will today to honor the names, faces and lives of the men, women and children who were taken from us so early and ensure that each and every one of them is not forgotten. I ask that you please keep the members of our armed forces in your thoughts and prayers as they continuously protect us,” said Brasier.
He then called upon the Warwick Fire Chaplin Fr. Jack Arlotta who led the ceremony in a spiritual and peaceful prayer. Fr. Arlotta reflected on the morning of 9/11, the effect it had on everyone and the horrors it left behind. Assemblyman Karl Brabenec remembered where he was on that horrible day. He recalled the efforts he made with his friends and neighbors weeks after the attacks, to help provide food and supplies to victims, families and first responders in NYC. He spoke of the way everyone was united and came together on 9/11 and the importance of passing that on to the nation’s youth.
Warwick Town Supervisor Michael Sweeton spoke of the beautiful “Tower of Voices” memorial in Shanksville, PA that was recently dedicated to honor the heroes of flight 93.
“By being here tonight and coming together on this day all across the country to remember the other 3,000 plus Americans who lost their lives, we give voice to those souls. We let them know that they didn’t perish in vain or for no reason,” said Sweeton.
Village of Warwick Mayor Michael Newhard spoke of the real feeling of loss that was felt throughout the community following the fall of the towers. He recognized everyone who was involved in organizing the committee to raise the necessary resources that led to the 9/11 Memorial. While Town Justice Peter Barlet described the day as being “piercing to our hearts, as many loved ones, friends, and neighbors are no longer among us.” He recognized the illnesses and issues that many are still left to face.
The Survivor Tree
A Callery pear tree that was recovered in October 2001 from the rubble at the World Trade Center was later named the “Survivor Tree.” When the eight foot tall tree was recovered, it was badly burned but bared one single living branch. In November 2001, the tree made its way to the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation Arthur Ross Nursery in Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, where it was nursed back to health. In December of 2010, the tree, then 30 feet tall, was returned to the World Trade Center site in a ceremony attended by city officials.
In September of 2016 the process of obtaining a survivor tree for the Town of Warwick began. Deborah Schweikart heard about the program and applications were submitted. The approval was obtained to bring a survivor tree seedling to Warwick to be planted in Veterans Memorial Park. The very special seedling was picked up back in May and was planted during the 9/11 ceremony in 2017.
Schweikart, who cares for the tree, said, “It’s still standing despite weather issues. It looks great. It has come a long way.”