With new memorial, Ocean City pays tribute to 9/11

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In a ceremony in front of the Sixth Street firehouse Tuesday, Sept. 11, Ocean City officials dedicate a new 9/11 memorial created from an I-beam recovered from the World Trade Center. In a ceremony in front of the Sixth Street firehouse Tuesday, Sept. 11, Ocean City officials dedicate a new 9/11 memorial created from an I-beam recovered from the World Trade Center.

OCEAN CITY — Darkness settled over Asbury Avenue in front of the Sixth Street firehouse as Mayor Jay Gillian officially dedicated a sculpture in memory of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on America, but it didn’t stay dark for long.

With the assistance of dozens of local children, Gillian led the countdown and flipped the switch on the sculpture, “As I Remember,” and the piece of I-beam garnered from the twin towers was brilliantly illuminated.

French painter Georges Braque once said, “Art is a wound turned into light,” Gillian noted.

The sculpture includes eight rods of steel rising in different directions, surrounding the steel beam. Artist José Chora worked with the Community Arts Project to capture what he called the “chaos of the day,” with a look upward, representing a sense of hope.

“That terrible day,” Gillian said, was eerily similar to the beautiful day Ocean City had just experienced.

“A Tuesday, with the same blue sky, the same pleasant temperatures and what seemed like a normal business day,” he said.

President George W. Bush addressed the nation that evening, Gillian said. Bush spoke of the pictures of airplanes flying into buildings, fires burning and huge structures collapsing, filling Americans with “disbelief, terrible sadness and a quiet, unyielding anger,” Gillian said, quoting Bush.

These acts, Gillian noted, were intended to frighten the nation into chaos and retreat.

“Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America. These acts shattered steel, but they cannot dent the steel of the American resolve,” Bush said.

Eleven years later, Gillian said, that resolve has not weakened.

“Today we gather as a community to dedicate a memorial sculpture featuring a piece of that very steel,” Gillian said. “It was dented that terrible day, but it now serves as the centerpiece of this sculpture.”

The sculpture, he said, serves as a reminder that nearly 3,000 people, who went to work or boarded an airplane that day, never returned to their family and friends.

“It reminds us today, as it did 11 years ago, that life is fragile and nothing is guaranteed,” he said. “We should appreciate that and cherish our time with our loved ones every day. We should treat every day of our lives as an opportunity to do some good and do our very best.”

Located in front of the OCFD headquarters, Gillian said the sculpture “reminds us how fortunate we are for the men and women who protect us every day.”

Police officers, firefighters, rescue workers, EMTs and the armed forces come to work each day willing to sacrifice everything in service to the public.

“Every day, all across the country, they are risking their lives for us,” Gillian said. “We should never forget their commitment, bravery and dedication.”

Ordinary citizens, he noted, acted with unimaginable bravery and courage on that tragic day, as well. Despite being injured, they helped coworkers and strangers, those who made it out safely only to rush back in because others had not. Passengers on an airplane over Pennsylvania, took action in the air so more innocent lives wouldn’t be taken on the ground.

Gillian said he hoped the sculpture would serve as more than a permanent memorial; perhaps it would serve as a perpetual reminder, a starting point for future conversations.

“These are the stories I urge you to tell your children and grandchildren when you visit this memorial and remember that day 11 years ago,” he said. “Tell them also how the world united in support for our country.”

Recalling how the Ocean City community rallied to donate blood and pray together at the Ocean City Tabernacle that evening, he said, “We gathered as a community because we know that prayer comforts us in the worst of times and prepares us for the challenges ahead.”

Rev. John Jamieson, chaplain for the Ocean City Fire Department, spent more than 30 years as an EMT, paramedic, crisis counselor and pastor.

“So many heroes” were revealed on 9/11, from firefighters, police officers to ordinary citizens when “airplanes were turned into guided missiles.”

“Where we you at 8:46 a.m. on Sept. 11, 2001?” he asked.

While we may want to forget, it will be permanently engraved in our memory.

Jamieson said he was working at AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center in Atlantic City, and supervisors advised staff members that the facility, one of the closest trauma centers to New York, should prepare, but “no patients arrived.”

The skies, he said, were silent for days as airplanes were grounded.

“It became clear that life would never be the same again,” he said.

Jamieson said area police and firefighters traveled to New York to assist in the rescue effort; his task was to counsel them upon their return.

“Brave souls,” he said, gave their lives trying to save others.

“We must never forget the thousands of lives lost,” he said. “We need to remember how truly blessed we are.”

In America, Jamieson noted, we are free to live our dreams and express our thoughts, but we must never forget that much of the world does not respect our freedom and we have to do our part to protect it. Quoting Thomas Jefferson, he said, “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.”

Ocean City Fire Chief Chris Breunig noted that it took just one hour and 42 minutes to completely take down the twin towers, two of the world’s largest structures. Terrorists, he said, “took down part of our house, our home, our country.”

“This is truly a day to remember,” he said, noting that nearly 3,000 people, including 343 firefighters and paramedics died that day.

When the clarion call for help went out, firefighters lined up to lend a hand, he said.

Ocean City firefighters Brian Green and Brad Wiltshire joined retired Capt. William McDonald, traveling to New York to assist for a 36-hour mission.

“The Ocean City Fire Department proudly accepts a piece of steel girder,” said Breunig, adding that he was proud to lead a group of men who take “an oath like no other,” putting their lives at risk and in danger to save the sick and injured.

The OCFD, he said, “is the first line of defense for the city of Ocean City.”

Police Chief Chad Callahan credited American’s “un-wavering faith” in the military and first responders, and asked those gathered to honor those who served.   

Miss New Jersey Lindsey Petrosh sang the national anthem and Ocean City’s Julia Wilson, a fourth grader at the Ocean City Intermediate School, sang “God Bless America.” “Amazing Grace” was performed by bagpipers Jack Meehan, Jeff MacNeil and Rick Lindsay. Bob Marzulli, commander of American Legion Post 524, and Michael Morrissey, commander of VFW Post 6650, led the flag salute.

Richard Stanislaw of the Ocean City Tabernacle delivered the benediction.

The following public servants were honored by Mayor Jay Gillian and their respective chiefs for their military service: Ocean City firefighters Christopher Vliet, Christopher Wildman, Daniel Shallawitz, David Martin, Jonathan Scanny, Mark Simon, Timothy Quinn, Wyatt Clevenger and William Martin; and Ocean City police officers Sgt. Micheal Tabor; Officers Jeffrey Doto, Brendan Gheen, Karl Ruf, Thomas Strunk, Sean Donahue and recruit David Ringkamp. 

In a ceremony in front of the Sixth Street firehouse Tuesday, Sept. 11, Ocean City officials dedicate a new 9/11 memorial created from an I-beam recovered from the World Trade Center. In a ceremony in front of the Sixth Street firehouse Tuesday, Sept. 11, Ocean City officials dedicate a new 9/11 memorial created from an I-beam recovered from the World Trade Center.

In a ceremony in front of the Sixth Street firehouse Tuesday, Sept. 11, Ocean City officials dedicate a new 9/11 memorial created from an I-beam recovered from the World Trade Center. In a ceremony in front of the Sixth Street firehouse Tuesday, Sept. 11, Ocean City officials dedicate a new 9/11 memorial created from an I-beam recovered from the World Trade Center.

In a ceremony in front of the Sixth Street firehouse Tuesday, Sept. 11, Ocean City officials dedicate a new 9/11 memorial created from an I-beam recovered from the World Trade Center. In a ceremony in front of the Sixth Street firehouse Tuesday, Sept. 11, Ocean City officials dedicate a new 9/11 memorial created from an I-beam recovered from the World Trade Center.


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