GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP – Police Chief Donna Higbee spoke from her heart Monday during the township’s annual 9/11 Ceremony that brought the ambulance squad, police and fire departments together with the public they serve.
“There are horrific images of that day that are burned into each of our minds,” she said, looking over the hundreds of people who gathered beside Patriot Lake, which is dedicated to Sept. 11, 2001 victims.
Higbee spoke of how men and women came together in the days following the disaster that killed almost 3,000 people in New York, Stonycreek, Pa. and Washington, D.C.
“The first responders, the brave civilians that comforted and helped one another, the brave passengers on flight 93,” she said. “If we can see that any good came from this experience, it was the camaraderie and genuine fellowship and good will of people from all walks of life.”
Values that everyone already has inside of them came out following the tragedy, she said.
“No one has to tell you to help your fellow neighbor; you just know that you should,” Higbee said. “We do rely on each other whether we want to admit it or not.”
The effects of recent Hurricanes Harvey and Irma shows the spirit of helping others hasn’t faded since 2001, she said.
“There are people from all over the country sending money and food and offering to leave their own families to come and man shelters, tend to the elderly, help animals and rebuild lives,” Higbee said. “We saw this happen in the days, weeks and months following Sept. 11 and for years to come as the memorial was brought to life.”
Higbee also praised the township’s current police officers, firefighters and ambulance squad personnel.
“It is our duty to make sure that we uphold the integrity of our position within the community and to also honor those that have sacrificed their lives wearing this badge and uniform,” she said to her police officers.
Higbee praised the township’s 200 volunteer firefighters that Chief Rick Smith patrols and admired the work they do.
They “are responsible for 115 square miles of homes, businesses, and 10 schools, not to mention a major hospital, a college university and six large-scale nursing homes and assisted living facilities,” she said.
Higbee also honored ambulance squad Chief Chuck Uhl and the members of his department.
“When things are really bad medically whether it be a wounded officer, a civilian involved in a motor vehicle accident, a football player that has lost consciousness on the field, or a child that broke their arm falling off their bicycle,” she said, “there is no better feeling than to see those ambulances and medic trucks pull around the corner.”
Uhl followed by offering numbers behind the terror of Sept. 11, 2001 that few think about today.
He said a 2-year-old was the youngest victim on the planes that day and an 82-year-old was the oldest. There were 1.5 million tons of debris collected and the World Trade Center fires burned for 69 days. It took 102 minutes for the North and South towers to collapse and 2,974 people died.
Walmart sold 116,000 United States flags following the tragedy, he said.
“Let us not forget those who gave so much,” Uhl said.
Chief Smith said simply, “We will never forget the day.”
During the ceremony, several people performed.
Fireman Chris Kislow of the Germania Volunteer Fire Company struck the 4-5s, a fireman’s way of ringing a bell and noting that a firefighter or important official has died.
Galloway Township Middle School music director Brian Conover led the school’s select choir’s performance of “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” and later performed Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA.”
The Atlantic City Sand Pipers Pipes and Drums performed the songs, “America” and “Amazing Grace.”
Pomona Volunteer Fire Company firefighter Joe Ward and Heather Berchtold of the South Egg Harbor Volunteer Company Ladies Auxiliary performed “Taps.”
Berchtold joined her parents, Howard, of the South Egg Harbor Volunteer Fire Company, and Donna Marie in performing the National Anthem.
Howard Berchtold also served as the event’s master of ceremonies.
Pastor Al Syvertsen of the Beacon Church offered the invocation and St. Vincent DePaul Deacon Rich Maxwell gave the benediction.
Bayview Fire Company Fire Chief Chuck Mackintosh spoke about what it was like to serve in New York in the days following the disaster.