One of the many who looked out from the September 11 Memorial at Eagle Rock Reservation early Tuesday morning was Richard Harris, a flight attendant for United Airlines.
“I have never been to a memorial service,” said Harris. “It was emotional because I knew all the people on that flight, Flight 93."
Harris was scheduled to work on Flight 93 that day eleven years ago, which crashed in Shanksville, Pa., but he changed his schedule to work on another plane.
This year, however, he said he wanted to attend a ceremony. “I have to move forward,” he said.
Eleven years ago, crowds watched from Eagle Rock Reservation as the New York City skyline was blackened by smoke after planes hit the World Trade Center buildings. On Tuesday, many returned to remember that day.
More than 200 people filled the reservation for Essex County’s annual memorial service, Essex Remembers. From the lawn of the memorial, first responders, emergency personnel, flight attendants, legislators, those who lost loved ones, and others, looked out into a bright blue sky framing a new yet incomplete World Trade Center.
Donald Robertson Sr., who lost his son Donald Jr. in the attacks, addressed the large crowd at the reservation. Originally from South Orange, he said his son worked on the one-hundred and fifth floor of the North Tower.
“He went to work that beautiful day and never came home,” said Robertson.
Robertson has attended every yearly memorial service at Eagle Rock Reservation. He was presented with an American flag at the start of the ceremony by Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo.
Robertson added that the memorial, which he believed is the best in the state, has and will continue to be a place of comfort for all those who remember that day.
“You can come here anytime of the day, any day of the week, and you will see people here ... reflecting; they are putting their finger on the names of the people of the wall,” said Robertson. “It is a special, special place when you consider the number of people who do not have a cemetery to go to.”
The crowd observed a moment of silence at 8:46 a.m. and 9:03 a.m. as the sounds of bells tolled to recall the moments the World Trade Center buildings were struck.
“Everyone knows where they were at that time,” said DiVincenzo. “... As the day went on, of course this was the site that we came up to view what was happening across Manhattan, and you could ... hear a pin drop .... I was just like everybody else: stunned.”
Elected officials voiced their thoughts about the importance of continuing the yearly observance.
“We gather here once again in a profound and sober way,” said Essex County Freehold President Blonnie Watson, “as a testament of the resolve of the American people. ... As we look across toward the New York skyline, we see freedom and perseverance as the towers rise from the ashes as a symbol of hope.”
Unveiled in October 2002, the memorial at Eagle Rock Reservation has the names of the more than 3,000 people who lost their lives written in marble, in addition to other statues. The county also installed a 7,400-pound piece of steel from the World Trade Center and a bronze plaque honoring emergency medical technicians at the tenth anniversary ceremony last year.