The final morning of a stormy April 2011 contained the same azure skies as Sept. 11, 2001, and provided a fitting backdrop to a solemn ceremony held outside the Scotch Plains Municipal Building. Less than two days before President Barack Obama announced that U.S. special forces operating in Pakistan had killed Osama Bin Laden, steel recovered from the World Trade Center was presented to the township by Port Authority Commissioner Anthony Sartor for the creation of a monument honoring the three Scotch Plains residents – Matthew Horning, 26, James Walsh, 37, and Mark Rothenberg, 52 – killed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which left more than 3,000 people dead.
Scotch Plains , and personnel transported the 10-foot beam in a motorcade that led from the to the front steps of the Municipal Building, where a podium and chairs had been assembled for the ceremony. An American flag, suspended from the ladders of two fire trucks, waved amid the treetops as bagpiper Al Gonzales, a retired New York City policeman who responded to Ground Zero, played Amazing Grace to mark the start the ceremony.
After a short introduction by Mayor Nancy Malool, Sartor was the first to speak. He delivered a short speech that touched on the Port Authority’s 90th anniversary – it was founded April 30, 1921 – his 37 years as a Scotch Plains resident and the events of Sept. 11.
“It is a day that everyone will always remember where they were and what they were doing,” Sartor said. “What we are doing now will be a constant reminder of that tragedy.”
Malool, who next took the podium, thanked Sartor profusely. “We could not have done what we are doing without his help,” she said.
She also recognized the members of the township’s newly-created Sept. 11 Memorial Committee, including Township Manager Christopher Marion, his assistant, Madeleine Rutkowski, Police Chief Brian Mahoney, Sgt. Ernie Hernandez, Fire Chief Jonathan Ellis, Rescue Squad Captain Daniel Sullivan, principal David Heisey, Township Zoning Officer Robert LaCosta, Business and Professional Association president Lisa Mohn, business owner Tom Donatelli, firefighter Charlie Mecca, Rescue Squad member Rob Jabstrebsky and longtime resident and volunteer Don Wussler. Hernandez, Ellis, Sullivan, officer Brian Cheney, firefighter Carmen Grausso and public works employees Eugene di Quollo, Alton McCoy and Randy Grizzard retrieved the steel from JFK International Airport on Wednesday.
"This steel represents so much. I find it remarkable that this piece of metal can evoke so many emotions,” Malool said. “But it is a symbol of our national pride, our hope, faith, and our resilience. At the same time, it embodies so much sorrow.”
The residents who died on Sept. 11, she continued, “were our neighbors and our friends. Through this monument, we hope to honor their memories and celebrate their lives. We also hope to pay tribute to all those who were lost that day and to celebrate those who survived.”
Diane Horning, whose son, Matthew, worked as a computer-programmer for Marsh and MacLennon, which had offices in the North Tower of the World Trade Center, offered heartfelt thanks to the township and the Port Authority.
“Matthew loved this town and I hope this memorial monument will give us all a place to sit in quiet reflection remembering the good in these three men and the good in this town that has chosen to honor them,” Horning said. “I am grateful that Scotch Plains has given us a place, without any commercialism for respectful and fitting remembrance and reflection.”
She noted that Matthew’s sister, Dana, named her newborn son Christopher Matthew. “He couldn’t have the first name of Matthew, because there could only be one Matthew,” Horning said.
Walsh, a computer programmer with Cantor Fitzgerald, was also in the North Tower when it was struck on Sept. 11. Rothenberg, an entrepreneur, was on United Flight 93, which crashed in rural Shanksville, Pa.
After the speeches, Reverend John Nielsen delivered an invocation and benediction, and as Gonzalez played “Going Home” on the bagpipes, the ceremony's attendees followed a fire truck as it pulled the steel to the Rescue Squad building, where the beam will be stored as the monument is constructed.
The monument's design, which was unveiled Saturday, calls for the beam to be split in two, with each piece rising from a pentagon. The monument will be located on the , located adjacent to the Municipal Building, and officially dedicated Sunday, Sept. 11.