September 11th is a day that many residents in our town recall vividly due to the horror and tragedy of that day.
On Sept. 11, 2001, and for years to come many lives were forever changed and families destroyed. I worked for Aon on the 101st floor of the World Trade Center. That morning 176 of my colleagues including three good friends perished. I was not in the office that day and say a prayer every day because I do not know what I would have done or if I would still be here if faced with such horror.
One friend who was the first to welcome me to the company left behind a beautiful young family. The wife not knowing how to process the event told her 4-year-old son, “Daddy is away on a business trip. He needs to walk home.” He’s now 23 and does not recall his dad except for pictures.
Another friend left behind a loving fiancée. A year later she awoke to a knocking on her door at 1 a.m. At the door was a police officer in tears. His hands were shaking and in them was a small box. In that box contained the rib of her fiancé and my good friend Heinz. The officer apologized profusely and said he felt that he could not delay informing her. Together they wept for over an hour.
Another good friend of our family lost their daughter to cancer before 9/11 and their son in law that day. Their children were left without parents. That same family a few years later lost their son who I grew up with to a suicide. He was a firefighter that day…his first day on the job. He could not cope with the pain of losing his fellow firefighters while he was told to stay at the rig. He left behind a pregnant wife and a child he never would meet.
There are thousands of these stories and our residents have their own including Todd Beamer’s. Therefore, I fully understand the calls and messages I received when a submitted event announcement was published in MonroeNow.com regarding a protest to be held on 9/11. The protest is organized by a local political group called Indivisible whose participants include among them the elected leaders of the Cranbury Democratic party. The topic was the opposition of funding for Border Patrol and ICE. As mayor and as a Democrat, I heard several upset residents loud and clear as based on my party affiliation there was an assumption of my involvement.
The issue of concern was not the topic, but the date. Though one person made pointedly clear to me that if we had better funding for these groups being protested then maybe we would not have had 9/11 happen at all. I addressed the concerns honestly and openly.
Our country is founded on the right to free speech. Our country is the only country in the world that provides this guarantee and with it the right to protest. So I do support the group’s rights to conduct a protest because if I do not then where do we stop and what is acceptable? However, I firmly believe that having a right and exercising the right are very different. By having a right, we are not absolved from the consequences of the action. In my view, choosing to support and organize a protest on 9/11 is inappropriate and disrespectful.
There are no absolutes in life, but there are certain truths including actions have consequences and certain days have certain meanings. Christmas, Rosh Hashanah, Easter, Diwali, Ramadan among others are days of respect and should be treated that way. Certain symbols also have taken on meaning. That is why desecration of some symbols or the writing of others on mosques, temples or churches is seen as a federal hate crime. September 11th and the Twin Towers is like those days and symbols. 9/11 is now a day of solemn thought, reflection and reverence for many people and why the memorial is so impactful.
On 9/11, children had their parents murdered by vile individuals and parents had children murdered by the same…generations lost….children and grandchildren never to be known...families destroyed. One does not randomly choose 9/11 for a protest any more than one randomly chooses December 25th to open presents and have Christmas gatherings. How sad our community has become and how dreary is our world that some would choose to protest this day.
I believe we as a community are united in supporting our impacted residents and respectful of the solemness of the day. I am very pleased that our civic organizations agree. So on 9/11, we as a town united by our civic groups will hold a candlelight vigil at Memorial Park at 8 p.m.
Please bring your candle and lighter. We will have a non-denominational prayer opening, followed by amazing grace and taps. Upon conclusion, we ask that everyone walk silently home or to their car. No speeches or political statements will be done.