HALFMOON, N.Y. — In a busy world where people live their lives at high speed the town took time last week to remember, honor, and recognize all those who lost their lives on 9/11 and the community’s first responders.
The annual Patriot Day Ceremony is held each year on Sept. 11 at dusk in the small park in front of the town justice building.
The one-hour long ceremony allows people a chance to stop for a few moments and remember those who lost their lives on 9/11; the innocent travelers on the airplanes, the people in the buildings hit by the planes, and the police, fireman and other first responders who tried to rescue them.
Eighteen years after the events of that day there are many who are still trying to heal. Ceremonies like the one in Halfmoon give them a chance.
As has been the case at past ceremonies, members of the town’s four volunteer fire companies marched into the site in their dress uniforms to formally start the proceedings. They were greeted by color guard units from VFW Post 1498, American Legion Post 1450, members of the Town Board, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and about 60 area residents including a number of military veterans.
The ceremony is highlighted each year by remarks from public officials.
“We’re here today to reflect, remember and pay tribute to first responders, law enforcement, firefighters and our ambulance corps members by saying thank you for always serving our communities,” said Town Supervisor Kevin Tollisen. “For many of you here tonight the events of Sept. 11, 2001 are forever imbedded in your memory.
"Many of us remember the exact place and what we were doing when those horrific acts took place. It’s a day when our nation was tested to its limits. It’s a day that showed America’s character, resolve, and love for our fellow mankind.”
As he reminded his audience to never forget the nearly 3,000 people who died that day, Tollisen thanked first responders near and far for what they did that day and what they do every day.
“Many ran in to help and made the ultimate sacrifice for their fellow mankind,” he said. “As we take the time to remember this day 18 years ago let us remember our police, firefighters, ambulance personnel and first responders who are always there in times of peril.”
In her remarks Sen. Daphne Jordan, R-Halfmoon, a former town councilwoman, described the day’s 19 terrorists as murderers and cowards for attacking innocent civilians and scorned them for their attacks.
“The terrorists failed,” she said. “Our nation was not defeated. America stood strong and Americans stood together as our nation recovered, rebuilt and moved forward from that tragic day. We demonstrated that American mettle is tougher, stronger, and more durable than any steel.
"In the wake of the Sept. 11 terror attack the best of America was displayed for all to see.”
The ceremony’s most moving remarks came from Halfmoon Town Justice Joseph Fodera, a Marine and retired NYPD detective. Through tears and deeply felt emotion Fodera described his day on 9/11 rushing to the scene to help with rescue efforts and his work afterward looking for human remains at a landfill.
“At 9:59 a.m. I watched (from the borough of Brooklyn) as the south tower, which had been burning for 56 minutes, collapsed from view and I watched as smoke and dust covered the sky” he said. “My heart sunk.”
Shortly after the collapsed a boat ferried Fodera and his team over to the site of the Twin Towers.
“I remembered thinking as I looked around that it looked like we were in a war zone in a Third World county,” he said. “The North Tower was burning above us and we were walking and climbing on debris from the South Tower. At 10:38 a.m. an incredible rumbling noise began and the North Tower, after burning for 102 minutes, collapsed as well.
"We ran as fast as we could into a deli on a side street taking as many people with us as we could as the building came crashing to the ground around us.”
After exiting the building Fodera said he was hoping to go out and save lives but that was not the case.
“I have never felt more useless in my life,” he said. “My training and experiences had prepared me for seeing death in a variety of ways, natural and unnatural, but nothing had prepared me for what I saw that day.”
He recalled taking a lunch break the following day while at the site with two firefighters who were also brothers. The two men had been at the Twin Towers site since the first plane hit the south tower. They were searching for their father, also a firefighter. They said they did not intend to leave until they found him or his remains.
In the following days Fodera said he saw firefighters carrying out the remains of firefighters and police officers carrying out the remains of their fellow police officers.
“My eyes cannot un-see what I’ve seen,” he said. “I’ll never forget those who gave their lives on that fateful day.”
As has he has done in past years Clifton Park-Halfmoon Volunteer Fire Department Chief Art Hunsinger thanked all who attended the ceremony.
“It’s important we never forget and we should never forget the worst day in American history, Sept. 11, 2001,” he said. “We lost 3,000 Americans that day and 323 of them were firefighters; friends. We have lost over 200 firefighters to the 9/11 disease in 18 years. We have people in this county and this town that are tested annually for 9/11 disease because when the call went out we went.
"Every one of these people were ready to go and some did. That’s why it’s important to never forget.”