On Wednesday morning, Warwick residents and government officials joined together at the Warwick 9/11 Memorial in Oakland Beach to reflect on the past 18 years, and pay their respects to those lost as a result of the terrorist attack. Those who spoke talked about the tragic loss that occurred within the Warwick community and beyond, and reflected on what happened that fateful day.
Attendees gathered under a tent with the ocean serving as a backdrop behind the first responders gathered in uniform. The wind lapped through the willows nearby, stiffening the American flag that flew at half-staff, and blew out onto the bay. Apart from the sound of the wind, the scene was quiet – the serious nature of the moment palpable.
Warwick Representative Camille Vella-Wilkinson was the Master of Ceremonies, and opened the 18th memorial saying, “On September 11th 2001, the North tower of the World Trade Center, engulfed in the flames of terrorism and covered in the smoke of hatred, fell in an exhausted heap.”
A prayer followed.
President of Bishop Hendricken, and Pastor at St. Benedict and St. Kevin Churches, Father Robert Marciano said, “The strength of our country has overcome those of terror and hate, because love is so much stronger than hate. We will always remember those Rhode Islanders and those who lived in Warwick, who are enshrined at this sacred place.”
The 9/11 memorial was a locally-based initiative started soon after the attack by Thomas Isacco, the late Larry Andrews and others who personally knew several victims from the collapse of the two towers. Today, Isacco continues to care for the park, visiting it at least twice a year to clean it up and place fresh plantings. He said he gets help from Barbara Corker and Donna Gill. But, he also notes, unknown others have taken to adopting the memorial site as he finds worn flags have been replaced and the grounds weeded.
Ward 6 Councilwoman Donna Travis reflected on the impact on families.
“Kids who have lost parents because of this attack are now young adults going into the workplace, or to college. They have been carrying this pain for 18 years and we will remember those people they lost.”
Mayor of Warwick, Joseph Solomon, said 9/11 changed the lives of many, forever. He spoke about how the image of the attack was “So seared into our collective memory. Today I join fellow citizens and people around the globe to pray for those we lost.”
Sergeant Major Dan Evangelista of the United States Army listed the Rhode Islanders who lost their lives in the attack. They are: Shawn M. Nassaney, Lynn and David Angell, Amy Jarret, Carol Bouchard, James E. Daven, Renee Newell, Mark Charette, and Kathryn LaBorie.
Ground Zero survivor and Warwick School Committee woman Judy Cobden recounted that fateful day. She was working at the New York Stock Exchange and felt the impact of the planes hitting the Twin Towers.
“As I left my office building, I walked into a war zone” she recounted. “I was covered in ash, and glass, and whatever else was falling from the sky. I have no idea how long I was out there for. I knew that I needed to get across the Brooklyn Bridge to the safety of my apartment, and once I saw the door to my building I cried. I was traumatized.”
Cobden also revealed that each of the four years in which she has attended this memorial event she always wears the same shoes that she wore that day.
Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea closed the memorial saying, “We can absolutely make a difference in the world.” She also added that, “It is so important that we take a moment to reflect and remember that we can change the world around us.” Later that night at 7 p.m. a candle light vigil was held at the site to symbolize standing together in the face of evil.
The events of 9/11 caused a massive effect in millions of lives across the nation. 2,996 people were killed in the immediate attack and more than 6,000 were injured. 343 firefighters and 71 members of law enforcement died in the buildings, and on the ground while attempting to get people to safety. Many more have perished since due to medical complications such as cancer resulting from their exposure to toxic fumes that day, and others suffer from diseases as a result to this day.
Following the playing of Taps by School Committee member Nathan Cornell, people gathered to talk about the tragic event and to show their support. Brother of Carol Bouchard, Richard DelleFemine, commented that the names of the fallen Rhode Island residents had finally been placed on the state 9/11 memorial after, “Years upon years of waiting.”