Officials from the township, county, school system, and emergency departments gathered on Wednesday morning, Sept. 11, in front of North Bergen High School to pay tribute to the nearly 3,000 victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, especially those from North Bergen.
High school students were part of the observance, singing the National Anthem and playing Taps in honor of those killed in New York City, Arlington, Va., and Shanksville, Pa.
Among the speakers were Mayor Nicholas Sacco, Interim Schools Superintendent Dr. George Solter, Hudson County Surrogate Don De Leo, and Father Yuvan Alvarez.
“Today is my day off, and I’m right where I want to be” – Carmen Tolentino
“Every year I’ve wanted to come, but couldn’t,” said Carmen Tolentino of 74th Street in the township, a laboratory technician at Palisades General Hospital. “But, today is my day off, and I’m right where I want to be. It’s important for me to finally come to the ceremony and pay my respects.”
Brian Bonacci, a band director at the school, was there for a different reason, checking the sound equipment onsite to ensure it would be working when the tribute began. But having started at the school 14 years ago, he remembers the fateful day as if it were yesterday.
“Like everywhere else it was disbelief,” Bonacci said. “But the school pulled together quickly. There was an immediate reaction.”
During the observance, the three recurring themes were: never forget, never let it happen it again, and educate those who don’t remember it themselves, because they were too young.
“At this time, the seniors of North Bergen High School were in kindergarten,” said Solter. “As time goes on, our mission is to keep the memories of our North Bergen victims, keep their memories alive.”
Sacco recalled that Wednesday’s beautiful summer weather was similar to that in this generation’s day of infamy.
“It was a day like today 12 years ago,” he said. “We still didn’t know what was going on. It seemed like an accident – and then the second plane hit.”
Sacco said the day had a “nightmarish quality.” And he added that the loved ones of those killed will never be the same.
“It’s a very traumatic thing to have gone through this,” the mayor said. “And this will go on forever for those families.”
Specifically honored on this day were North Bergen graduates who died 9/11/01: Sal Tieri, Class of ’78, Robert Cirri, Class of ’80, and Christopher Amoroso, Class of ’90. Also honored were Marcos Gorra, killed in Afghanistan, the war that was begun in response to the attacks, and David Lemagne, who lived in both North Bergen and Union City during his life. Amoroso, a Port Authority police officer, was credited with rescuing several people from the burning towers before falling victim himself.
In addition, Township Commissioners Hugo Cabrera, Allen Pascual, and Theresa Ferraro attended, as did Hudson County Sheriff Frank Schillari, Police Chief Robert Dowd, deputy chiefs and other police brass and officers. Besides Solter, representing the school system were Principal Pat Tennaro and Board of Education President Edward Latour.
Joseph Passantino may be reached at JoePass@hudsonreporter.com.