"Patriotism and loyalty have brought me here," said Greenville section resident Lourdes Perez, carrying a large American flag over her shoulder.
Perez's daughter was working in the South Tower when the planes hit, and she escaped before the collapse.
"At first they thought it was an accident and there was no immediate panic," said Perez. "The building began to tremble, and she ran for her life."
Another early arrival, Juanita Lopez, a 20-year Jersey City resident, was at the Trade Center in 1993 when terrorists attempted to destroy it by detonating explosives in a parking garage beneath the Towers.
"I was working on the 22nd floor for the New York State Legal Authority," said Lopez. "I never thought it would happen again. I need to be here, to let people know how I feel."
As the start time of candlelight vigil approached, more Jersey City residents filled Summit Avenue in front of the Armory. Carrying a homemade banner calling for remembrance of those that perished and survived were Minnie Torres and her sister Myna Rivera.
"I saw the explosion when I was down at Exchange Place," said Torres, adding that she had just dropped her children off at school and was getting breakfast. Her sister, Myna, was in the North Tower at work on the 65th floor.
"The impact knocked me down to the floor," Rivera said. "We evacuated in an orderly manner. We walked and there was no running."
However, when Rivera got to the nearer to the ground she saw the results of the crash.
"We saw debris and a body go by the window before we got out," Rivera added.
For Rivera, the 9/11 experience was not all bad. She discovered a few days after the tragedy that she was pregnant with her now infant son Christian, bringing Rivera's family to three boys.
"I learned from 9/11 to appreciate my family and how much I love them," Rivera concluded.
Vigil took planning
"The 9-11 Memorial Committee had been working on this vigil since March," said committee member Diane Regan. "We put out informational fliers and posters and had a commercial on Comcast Cable."
Regan commented that the procession would reflect the Jersey City community's commitment to the memory of 9/11.
"The procession shows we have not and will not forget the tragedy of Sept. 11," Regan said.
Participating in the procession as it moved down Montgomery Street toward Exchange Place were Richard Dwyer, his 6-year-old son Eamon, and Eamon's friend Julia Allen, also 6.
"We wanted to be part of the rebuilding after the disaster as soon as possible," said Dwyer. To that end, he and Eamon helped distribute water bottles to workers and attack survivors at Exchange Place on the day of the attack.
"The lesson I wanted him [Eamon] to learn was not to be a victim," added Dwyer.
As the sun set, the steadily growing number of marchers with candles converged on Exchange Place. At the rails of the walkway along the Hudson River, people left the candles in tribute to those lost at the World Trade Center. One of those was Vietnam veteran John Degan, who expressed his patriotic motivation for participating in the vigil.
"We have to show these idiots [terrorists] that they cannot stomp on the United States," said Degan.
The culmination of the one year anniversary 9/11 Memorial Program held at Exchange Place Wednesday was the dedication of the first of two monuments Jersey City plans for the riverside area.
"May we always remember those who were lost," said Rabbi Kenneth Brickman at the dedication ceremony, which took place at 10:34 a.m., the time a year ago at which the last of the Twin Towers collapsed.
Expressing thanks for the survivors of the tragedy, Brickman said, "For the ties of love which death cannot sever, we thank you Lord and praise Your holy name."
The six-foot wide and high black granite monument has the names of the 37 Jersey City residents killed on 9/11 on its front and a carving of the pre- Sept. 11 New York skyline on the back. Located behind the monument are three metal beams from the World Trade Center, laid out in the form of an "A" for America.
Prior to the dedication ceremony, the names of all 37 Jersey City residents killed at the World Trade Center were read aloud by members of the Jersey City 9/11 Memorial Committee. Attendees at the ceremony observed four separate moments of silence for the two attacks on the World Trade Center, followed by the collapse of the Towers.
Speaking at the memorial ceremony, Jersey City Mayor Glenn Cunningham praised the efforts of the police, fire and rescue departments on Sept. 11, 2001.
"I am proud of the way our emergency personal responded on that day," said Cunningham. "On two separate occasions on Sept. 11, police officers and firemen went into the subway when there were rumors of people trapped in trains. Only did flooding conditions force them to leave."
Cunningham noted that Jersey City emergency workers were among the first to arrive at Ground Zero to help with the recovery efforts.
Cunningham spoke on what he called "the greatness of the nation," which he said resided in the hearts and minds "of every man, woman and child who raced to Ground Zero on Sept. 11."
"The terrorists did accomplish what they set out to do," Cunningham said. "They brought down the Twin Towers. But the true Twin Towers of America are freedom and democracy. They will never be able to take them away from us."
A second dedication occurred at noon at Harborside Financial Center Plaza 5. According to Mitchell Hersh, chief executive officer of Mack-Cali Realty Corp. that commissioned "Dauntless Efforts," the sculpture is a tribute to construction workers who went to Ground Zero to help with the clean-up and rescue efforts.
"Mack-Cali suspended all construction work on this side of the Hudson to let workers the workers go to Ground Zero," said Hersh. "They made a demonstration of the strength of the American character."
The metal sculpture, created by Jersey City artist Matthew Johnson, portrays a steel worker armed with a welding torch surveying the twisted ruins of the Twin Towers. Johnson said the material for the sculpture came from the World Trade Center.
"The figure of the steel worker is meant to express the weariness, strength and introspection of all those guys who sifted through the rubble," Johnson explained.