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Remembering 9/11 here and in New York

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With the 20th anniversary of 9/11 fast approaching, we are reminded of the countless memorials that have been erected nationwide, symbolizing both the tragic events of that day and the resiliency of the human spirit to rise above adversity.
Two poignant examples are The 9/11 Garden of Reflection, in Lower Makefield Township and The 9/11 Memorial and Museum in New York City.
Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001 was one of the most beautiful mornings ever, with mild temperatures and brilliant sunshine blanketing much of the I-95 corridor from New England to Virginia. But ironically, this gorgeous day would quickly turn in to one of the darkest in American history.
A typical rush hour was well underway in The Big Apple and elsewhere throughout the country. The network morning shows, all in full swing, offered their daily smorgasbord of news, lifestyle and other feature stories to inform and entertain their viewers.
Suddenly, at 8:46 a.m. came word of an airplane striking the North Tower of The World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan. All regular radio and television programming was abruptly interrupted, with network feeds simultaneously televising an image of thick smoke billowing from the towering skyscraper.
“I received an all hands on deck call from our vice president and general manager, Merrill Reese (a.k.a. the voice of the Philadelphia Eagles) asking me to come to the station immediately, recalls Dennis Ostopowicz, a broadcast engineer and show host for Levittown-based radio station, WBCB - 1490 AM. “Preliminary reports suggested it might have been a small single engine aircraft with a student pilot and instructor that had strayed off course, but no one knew for sure,” he continues.
The sobering reality would soon become apparent, with a second plane striking the South Tower and other events soon to unfold.
Indeed, by shortly after 10 a.m., a total of four commercial aircraft, American Airlines flight 11, United Airlines flight 175, American Airlines flight 77 and United flight 93, had been commandeered and diverted by hijackers to specific targets.
American Airlines flight 11 and United Airlines flight 175 would both crash into the World Trade Center and American Airlines flight 77 would strike the Pentagon. Meanwhile, United flight 93, presumably bound for either The White House or our nation’s capitol building, would crash into a Shanksville, Pennsylvania field, thanks to the courageous actions of its passengers, who confronted the hijackers and thwarted their original plans.
The insidious and well orchestrated terrorist attacks perpetrated on New York City’s World Trade Center and elsewhere may have occurred 20 years ago, but for those of us who lived through that fateful series of events, the images are indelibly seared into our memories as if they happened just yesterday.
No one knows that better than Ellen Saracini, whose husband, Victor, was captain of ill fated United Airlines flight 175, the second of two planes that struck the iconic twin towers.
Rather than to dwell on the tragedy of that day, she, along with a small group of family members whose loved ones had also perished, conceived a plan to create a calm, tranquil place where anyone of any age could come to meditate, reflect and be inspired.

The result of their collective efforts culminated in what is The 9/11 Garden of Reflection, in Lower Makefield Township. Dedicated on September 30, 2006, the garden perpetuates the memory of the 2, 977 people (18 from Bucks County) killed on 9/11.
“It’s an absolutely beautiful memorial, with walking paths, trees, benches, a beam from one of the World Trade Center towers, plus victims’ names delicately etched in glass, Saracini observes. She is chair of the Memorial Garden of Reflection Inc. “A main attraction is twin luminous fountains that represent healing, renewal and a celebration of life,” she continues.
The 2.5-acre memorial site, beautifully nestled into a more than 62-acre park, attracts countless visitors from far and wide every year.
For those who either aren’t old enough to remember the events of 9/11 or who lived through that day and want to learn more, a day trip to The 9/11 Memorial and Museum in New York City, is well worth taking.
Much like Lower Makefield’s Garden of Reflection, New York’s 9/11 Memorial and Museum, which has drawn millions of visitors from around the world, is also dedicated to promoting education, healing and renewal.
The Memorial, situated on “Ground Zero,” features two majestic pools, each measuring about an acre and built within the footprints of what had been the World Trade Center’s North and South towers.
The awe-inspiring design, “Reflecting Absence,” features water dramatically cascading from each pool into a 30 foot square basin, then dropping another 20 feet into a chasm. Inscribed on 152 bronze parapets around the perimeters of the steel framed pools are the names of the 2, 977 victims who perished in the attacks of 9/11, plus six others who died in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. Interspersed within the Memorial Plaza are 400 swamp white oak trees, designed to provide an enhanced sense of calm.
A tour through the 9/11 Museum, adjacent to the pools, offers riveting accounts of the events that occurred on September 11th, 2001.
Exhibits, showcased within more than 100,000 square feet of public space, include thousands of images, plus artifacts, including twisted steel beams and a tattered American flag extricated from the rubble of Ground Zero, a fragment from one of the hijacked aircraft, damaged equipment and protective gear worn by first responders.
Hours of audio and video recordings along with personal journals further underscore the devastating havoc and emotional upheaval that reverberated throughout our nation and the world.
Regardless of any differences that may divide us, as we commemorate the 20th anniversary of the heinous terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, there is arguably one unwavering mantra shared by us all — We Must Never Forget!

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