Clifton Never Forgets: 9/11 Memorial Honors Our Residents Who Perished
Twenty-two years later the pain is still raw; older people asked one another “Where were you?” and the younger generation remembered being in school but not understanding what happened. Indeed, many had not yet been born. It’s critical to say more than “Never forget” – the generation that remembers has an obligation to teach others about the day that forever changed our country.
Clifton used to have a reading of all the names of those who perished, but as years went by, that turned into a small memorial service for city employees at the City Hall 9/11 memorial site. Several years ago, Judy Bassford wondered why a ceremony that honored the Clifton residents was not open to the public and was held at a time when most people were working. She took to Facebook and within hours, people had volunteered to help out in any fashion. Soon, a permit to have the event was granted and a new Clifton tradition, open to the whole community, started at the site of the memorial.
Monday, September 11th arrived with the threat of rain for late afternoon. For once, the forecasters were right as thunderstorms rolled in at 6 pm, the same time as the start of the event. Mayor Ray Grabowski opened up the municipal courtroom so that attendees could shelter and the ceremony began with Gene Farrell, a Vietnam veteran, leading the Pledge of Allegiance together with middle schooler Caleigh Gaudet. Kim Oeffler said a prayer, and Katelyn Lapczynski sang an a cappella version of “Amazing Grace” that was both emotional and soothing.
Volunteers, holding large photos of the Clifton residents who perished on that day, read brief biographies and shared memories. Barbara James spoke about Kaccy Cho; Cathy Linker spoke of her good friend Edgar Emery; Joe Siano read about Zuhtu Ibis.
Then, Micki Gaudet and her daughter Caleigh sang a powerful, moving “God Bless America” and JoAnne MacBeth read a poem called “Meet Me in the Stairwell,” speaking of how many sought God in their final moments.
Doug Fornelius told John Grazioso’s story, followed by Alias Ragsdale talking about Grazioso’s brother Timothy. Henry Cholewczynski told about Ed Murphy and Chris D’Amato read a poem called “The Little Thing” about living in the moment, and small acts of kindness.
Kim Oeffler read about Ehtesham Raja, Ihor Andruch about John P. Skala, and Kevin Kurnath read about Francis Trombino.
The ceremony concluded with Andruch reciting "Our Father" in Ukrainian and the playing of a recording of Taps. Finally, Gene Farrell spoke out about our obligation to come together as a community and provide solace to those in need, saying “Nothing is more important than comfort and caring; we remember because we care and need to know others care too.”
Brief biographies of our Clifton neighbors who perished:
Kaccy Cho, 30, was an executive secretary at Cantor Fitzgerald from a small Korean family who loved music, dancing, and counseling friends.
Edgar Emery, 45, was a director at Fiduciary Trust. His friend Cathy Linker remembers him as someone who was always cheerful, loved his family, and always told others to “have a happy day”.
John, 41, and Timothy Grazioso, 42, were brothers who worked and played hard together while raising families and taking care of their mom, Sandra. Timothy lived in Florida but had an apartment in Brooklyn during the week and at night, would call his children to read to them.
Ehtesham Raja, 28, from Pakistan loved to drive, sing, and go out to eat traditional food with his friends; he was considering proposing to his girlfriend. He was there that day for a conference.
Zuhtu Ibis, 26, a native of Turkey had a strong work ethic and his dedication to his job at Cantor Fitzgerald would help him follow his dream of success. He loved his wife and children.
John Skala, 31, was a Port Authority Officer who never ran away, but ran towards problems, starting at an early age, and had no fear.
Francis Trombino, 68, had survived being shot in a Brinks holdup years ago, as well as the first World Trade Center bombing. He was driving a truck that was crushed in the debris.
It’s hoped that surviving family members who still live in Clifton, if any, will participate in future ceremonies. Many thanks to all who helped to commemorate this solemn day.