Story by Lourice Angie
The Warwick Fire Department assembled on Mon., Sept. 11 with local officials and dignitaries, members of the Police Department, volunteer emergency services, and people from throughout the community at Veterans Memorial Park in the Village of Warwick for a Remembrance Ceremony to honor the fallen heroes and innocent victims of the devastating 9/11 attacks on our nation that occurred sixteen years ago.
Nearly 3,000 people lost their lives on Sept., 11 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 these 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; and 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.
`Although 16 years have passed, the feeling of pain, disbelief, and terror still haunts the memories of those who reflect on that tragic day. As the community gathered at the 9/11 Memorial Monument just inside the entrance of Veterans Memorial Park, veterans and the color guard of VFW Post 4662 watched from close by.
Rev. Richard Marrano, of St. Stephen’s parish, opened the ceremony in prayer saying, “We pay tribute to the innocent victims and first responders, the police and firefighters who gave so selflessly of their time and lives to defend us and our country. We continue to pray and remember all those who protect our freedom and especially our armed forces. May your continued presence in our community and our world help us to see peace, love and joy, and continue to unite us to our father and unite us to one another. May their lives be an example to us of the way we should give so selflessly to all those in need especially our neighbors, family and friends.”
Each of the seven victims names were read aloud, followed by the singing of “God Bless America,” performed by members of the Warwick Valley Chorale and the Warwick United Methodist Church choir.
‘We Will Never Forget’
Town officials also shared heartfelt memories and thoughts with the crowd during the ceremony.
“You’ll see that Americans will always come together in times of need and despair. Let today serve as a reminder of the American spirit. There is not a power or an evil that will allow the defeat of the greatest nation on this planet. May God bless all of you here tonight and may God bless the United States of America,” said Assemblyman Karl Brabenec.
Warwick Town Supervisor Michael Sweeton said, “We’re here to pay tribute to the brave police, firefighters, and EMS who raced to save the lives of others without concern for themselves and many who never came back. We’re here to remember and keep in our prayers those who continue the fight in our military. But we’re mostly here to pray for the families who lost seven individuals from our community. We hope that us coming together every year to remember those whose lives were lost gives them some strength to bear that burden and we want them to know and understand we’ll never forget what happened and we’ll stay in this fight till the fight is won.”
Village of Warwick Mayor Michael Newhard also spoke to the crowd. He said, “Today we gather to pay respect to those we lost locally and all the men and women we lost on Sept. 11. Our hearts are filled with sadness. When something as intensely horrific such as this happens, we distinctly remember where we were, who we were with and what we were doing. It was a moment that the world stopped. This was an incident that changed history and its affect on families and loved ones remains a deep scar we feel in our community.”
Warwick Town Justice Peter Barlet became emotional saying, “This day breaks my heart, broke my heart 16 years ago, and continues to break it every time I think about the events that occurred.”
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 Dept. of Parks and Recreation Arthur Ross Nursery in Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, where it was nursed back to health. In December 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. Deb 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 at the John Bowne High School in Queens, NY.
The “Survivor Tree” was planted during the 9/11 ceremony. Warwick Fire Department Chief Jason Braiser said, “Just as the original survivor tree, this seedling embodies our nation’s spirit of hope, healing, strength and resilience.”
Reporter’s Note: One thing that will always stand out about 9/11 is, that no matter where you were, who you were with, your race, religion or political views, we were all American’s on that day. We were a nation united, we volunteered our help and treated one another as neighbors & we mourned together because we all stood for something much greater than ourselves. There was a true sense of pride in being American on that day & protecting our country. We will always have a story to share & we will always feel deeply saddened by the thought, and most of all ‘we must never forget’.