Sires was mayor of West New York when he learned that Michael Paris Colbert, William Joseph Cashman, Nereida De Jesus, and Paul Robert Eckna were among the nearly 3,000 victims, including the more than 700 New Jerseyans who died that day.
“This is always one of the most difficult ceremonies for me to attend,” Sires said. “Because I was not just the mayor of this town when it happened, but the parents of Michael Colbert were my neighbors. I remember the day coming back in the evening after all of the confusion having come into the lobby and they asked me if I had any information regarding their son. The most frustrating thing was that I had no information. Nobody had information.”
Colbert worked in the World Trade Center as a bond trader for Cantor Fitzgerald..
“This was one of the offices near the top of one of the Twin Tower buildings,” Sires said.
Born in Paris, Michael Colbert moved to Jersey City with his parents when a young boy. His father had found work in a factory in Hoboken. Michael’s mother, Maria, became ill two days after the 9/11 attacks, and died of cancer in 2006.
Michael’s remains were never found
“The other man, William Cashman – Willie and I were one time neighbors, when I was single. I used to meet William in the laundry room on 62nd Street.”
He said, “I have vivid memories of this day. I remember standing here and watching the smoke from where I lived for weeks on end and realizing that America has changed forever. Sixteen years later, we’re still dealing with terrorism. We still have to be on the lookout. Our way of travel has changed. And it’s really disconcerting that we still have a world full of terrorists we have to be on the lookout for every single minute and never drop our guard.”
He said people should never forget those who died, as well as the police, firefighters, and EMTs who rushed into the buildings to help those inside, many of whom are still dealing with the after affects of going in.
"We may have the Freedom Tower today, and now it looks as if nothing happened,” Sires said. “But something did happen that day and we haven't forgotten it."
“This is a very sad day for all of us.” – Felix Roque
The town of West New York has held a memorial to the victims every year since 2011. Unlike in a number other Hudson County towns, the event was well attended, mourners gathering at Donnelly Park on Boulevard East in the evening of Sept. 11 to pay their respects.
About a 100 people stood before the Liberty Memorial as the sun slowly set and commuters made their way along Boulevard East on their way home.
Sires said Mayor Felix Roque was responsible for the construction of Liberty Memorial, which is a monument dedicated to the four residents who died.
Members of the West New York Memorial High School Band played The Star Spangled Banner and Taps, joined by fife and bagpipers from the Bayonne Police Department, members of the West New York and North Bergen Police Departments, and North Hudson Regional Fire & Rescue.
“This is a very sad day for all of us,” Roque said. “We all remember where we were on that specific day when we saw the horrors of terrorism.”
Roque said when he came to the ceremony on this day, he looked for Raymond Colbert, the father of Michael. Raymond was there. He said he carries a picture of his son everywhere.
“Michael was 39,” said Colbert, who turned 94 last year.
In 2011, Colbert was teaching in Manhattan when he heard news about the attack. He decided to go see if the boy was all right. He was unable to get past the police roadblock at 14th Street.
A flag of remembrance
In an emotional ceremony, firefighters, police, and political figures helped raise flags on poles at Donnelly Park. The American flag belonged to the sister of Nereida De Jesus, and was handed over to the officials by her sister, Julia Dujarric. The other two flags were from West New York's police and fire departments.
A moment of silence was held in memory of the victims.
“This is something can never forget, those honorable people who died,” Roque said. “We have to remember that freedom is not free and we have to invest in our community and thank our heroes, not only police, but EMS and the fire department, because these are people who are always going to be there.”
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.