Residents gathered Sunday at the dedication of Mount Kisco’s 9/11 memorial, and with the 10th anniversary of the attacks observed, it was a chance to remember and reflect.
The tribute was replete with ceremonies, including taps, the laying of a wreath, a gun salute and ringing bells. Notable was the raising of the first of 50 flags that Mount Kisco firefighters brought along with them when they traveled last month to the World Trade Center site, Pentagon and Shanksville, PA as part of a motorcycle ride to honor the fallen.
“Therefore, for the next 50 years, there will always be a U.S. flag proudly standing guard over this monument, which visited all three sites of the attacks,” said firefighter Paul Felice, who was part of the volunteer fire department’s committee that helped to guide the memorial’s construction. The flag was raised by the three heads of Mount Kisco’s first responder organizations 10 years ago: former Police Chief Robert D’Agostino, Sally Pierce of the Volunteer Ambulance Corps and former Fire Chief Vincent Boles.
The memorial itself – the main sculpture was represented by two dark-granite pillars representing the Twin Towers, plus a Pentagon pool – was unveiled with the removing of a shroud by members of the Scopelliti family.
The dedication was the culmination of nearly two years worth of work, which included planning and fundraising for $120,000 in private donations from members of the community. Construction began last October and was recently completed.
Additional symbols, incorporated over time, included a steel beam from the World Trade Center site, three benches to honor those who died on the four hijacked planes, special grasses to evoke Shanksville, PA and a Maltese cross for the 343 fallen firefighters. There were also inscriptions on one of the towers for two victims whose families have ties to the community, George Morrell and Michael Berkeley.
The event included a long guest list of speakers, who came to pay tribute to the victims, thank first responders and give support to the community. In addition, firefighters came from several nearby communities, including Chappaqua, Millwood, Bedford, Bedford Hills and Katonah.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who lives next door in New Castle, talked about the need to understand 9/11 as part of our nation's history that will be passed down for generations.
“They [future generations] need to understand the facts because it’s the world that they’re going to inherit, but they also need to understand the story of humanity that 9/11 showed,” he said.
Cuomo added that the events showed “the best of humanity and the worst of humanity.” The worst because of those who perpetuated the attacks, but the best because of those who helped in its aftermath, including first responders who put their lives on the line.
“Rather than being there to protect themselves, they were going to be there to protect others,” he said.
Rep. Nan Hayworth, a Bedford resident, recalled people coming into her Mount Kisco-based ophthalmology practice the day of the attacks, worrying about people they knew in the Twin Towers. Sadly, she explained, some were lost.
“But for those who lost their earthly existence on that day, they live on in you,” she said. Hayworth also spoke with praise for the government’s efforts over the past decade to go after those responsible.
“They live on because we remember,” she said. “They live on because the men and women of our armed forces went around the world to fight terror after that day.”
She was one of several elected officials who talked about looking at how 9/11 impacted foreign affairs.
“Nineteen thugs with box cutters changed our global history,” said State Sen. Greg Ball. “We’re still dealing with those implications today.”
“We grieve and mourn with the families who lost loved ones,” said Mayor Michael Cindrich. “But we also must reflect on the state of the world today, as the world exists.”
State Assemblyman Robert Castelli implored people to remember first responders and those in the armed forces.
The theme of community support was also recurrent.
The memorial creation effort was a community supported one, noted Rich Alexander, a Mount Kisco firefighter and retired New York City firefighter who helped with the post-9/11 recovery effort at the World Trade Center site.
“We’ll all be here to remember the sacrifice and the pain and the loss of loved ones,” said Westchester County Legislator Peter Harckham. “But it is also a celebration of community.”
In tribute to the fallen, Mount Kisco Fire Chief Michael Boles spoke emotionally about the hectic atmosphere that New York City firefighters faced while responding to disaster at the World Trade Center.
“The story told here is a brief reminder of the heroes of 9/11,” he said. “They ran into harm’s way while others ran out that day.”
The event included folks who helped to uplift and honor.
Victim Michael Berkeley’s two sons, Jason and Eric, read aloud their poem, called “We Remember.”
“As long as we live, they too will live, for they are now apart of us as we remember them,” a sentence went.
Berkeley's wife, Lourdes Perez-Berkeley, was in attendence to commemorate the 10th anniversary. The family lived in lower Manhattan at the time of the attacks and Berkeley worked in the World Trade Center's North Tower. The family now lives in New Castle. Three extended family members, who represented the family at a World Trade Center ceremony earlier in the day, came to show support. They were Berkeley's maternal aunt, Joanne Turner and first cousins, Ellen and Rhonda Turner, who live in Queens.
Musical guests came, including singer Fatye, retired Yankee Bernie Williams and Mark Rivera, a saxophone player for Billy Joel.
The tribute ended with the placing of red carnations around the memorial’s reflecting pool; 343 were given out for each firefighter who perished. But with the conclusion of reflection was a chance for the community to meet its firefighters, with an invite for food and music to conclude the afternoon.