Westfield Remembers September 11, 2001, Ten Years Later
The town held an interfaith service Sunday night that ended with a candlelight tribute to those who lost their lives in 9/11.
At 9 years old, Joe Fogel remembers being picked up from school by a neighbor and taken home early on Sept. 11, 2001. He was carrying his brand new trumpet — an instrument his guitar-playing dad was excited to hear him play.
His father, Stephen Mark Fogel, however, died in the terrorist attacks and never heard him try out that new trumpet. He's one of the 12 Westfield residents whose names are inscribed on granite pillars at the Westfield September 11th Memorial Park where a tenth anniversary commemoration service was held Sunday night.
Music is something the Fogels always associate with their dad and husband. Joe, his 16-year-old sister Brittany and their mom Laurie spent the tenth anniversary of 9/11 touching on all of Stephen Fogel's interests. They went to the marina where they once had a boat. They listened to music because he was an avid guitarist. They nearly bought a dog after visiting puppies — all interests of their late father, husband and friend.
They ended their day at the Memorial Park where the town was hosting an interfaith ceremony commemorating 9/11.
The Fogels each placed a rock on top of the granite pillar inscribed with Stephen's name. It's a Jewish tradition to honor the dead by leaving a marker. Similar rocks and markers perched atop some of the 12 granite pillars honoring those Westfield residents killed in the terrorist attacks. All the pillars were surrounded by American flags and flowers rested at their sides. On some pillars, rosaries wrapped around their base with red roses intertwined.
In honor of the tenth anniversary, hundreds of Westfield residents gathered at 6 p.m. Sunday at the park to pray, to reflect on the lives lost and to join the community in a candlelight tribute led by Westfield Boy Scout Troop 72.
"To the families of the victims, there are simply no words I can say to adequately express our collective sorrow for your incomprehensible loss," Westfield Mayor Andrew Skibitsky said in his address. "I can only assure you that you and your loved ones will never be forgotten and will forever be in our thoughts and prayers."
With musical interludes by members of the Westfield Symphony Orchestra and Westfield High School vocalists, the commemoration included prayers by the Rev. Monsignor Joseph P Masiello of Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church and Rabbi Douglas B. Sagal of Temple Emanu-El.
"Remember how precious is the gift of life." Masiello said in his dedication prayer. "And only worth living when we strive each day to make it ever better and ever more beautiful for others."
The prayer was followed by a moment of silence. Then, Skibitsky named the loved ones lost as a bell tolled twice for each of the 12 Westfield victims of 9/11: Andrew J. Alameno, David Otey Campbell, Michael A. Davidson, Dean P. Eberling, Stephen Mark Fogel, Thomas Glasser, Leo Russell Keene III, Richard B. Madden, John "Pepe" Salerno, See-Wong Shum, Anthony Starita and Jim Walsh.
"In the rising of the sun and in its going down, we will remember them," Sagal said in his closing prayer. "In the beginning of the year and when it ends, we will remember them. When we are weary and in need of strength, we will remember them. When we have joys we so yearn to share, we will remember them. So long as we live, they too shall live."
As Taps was played and the high school vocalists sang "America the Beautiful," the community blew out their candles, spent some quiet moments by the granite pillars and visited with friends and family who came to attend the commemoration.
Though the Fogel children were young during 9/11, they still remember the day they lost their father. Other children who attended the Westfield ceremony, however, were not yet born when terror struck. Yet, they still feel the importance of honoring those whose lives were lost.
"It was sad but it's really important because a lot of people lost the people that they love," 8 1/2-year-old Catherine Valencia. said of the ceremony "And, I'm just glad we didn't lose anybody we love. ... I'm sort of happy no one I love got hurt but I'm also very sad because so many people lost their lives."
Though the ceremony was the last stop for the Fogels on 9/11, mom Laurie said remembering her husband Stephen is not an annual event, it's an everyday occurrence.
"Every day, we mention him in conversation," she said. "Every day we think of him — through music or some small action. Not a day goes by."