In a solemn ceremony, Westchester County paid tribute to those who died in the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, including 111 Westchester residents and 12 former residents. County Executive Robert P. Astorino presided over the 16th anniversary ceremony that took place at The Rising, the county's 9/11 memorial. The Hon. Michael Kaplowitz, Chairman, County Board of Legislators also gave remarks.
The Benediction was given by Imam Adam Adamu, Yonkers Islamic Center, Inc., Rabbi David Holtz, Temple Beth Abraham of Tarrytown and the Reverend Melvin E. Wilson, Presiding Elder, Brooklyn-Westchester District, A.M.E. Church.
Astorino made special mention of the first responders who have died since the attack due to 9/11 related illnesses. “On this day 16 years ago, America was wounded – stunned with a body blow as great structures that symbolized our nation and the fabric of our lives were turned to rubble. Into the horror went our heroes. Without hesitation, cops, firefighters and EMT’s rushed to save lives. In doing so, many gave their own,” said Astorino. “Sadly, the dynamism of 9/11 also brings more loss. The bravery did not stop on that day. In the days, weeks, months and years that followed, the mission of saving lives changed to comforting souls; bringing dignity to those who died and closure to those who loved them. For some, these acts of humanity would prove fatal. To work on the Pile was to be surrounded by ash, fumes, and other silent killers.”
To an estimated 400 family members and residents that attended the ceremony, Astorino named a number of the fallen first responders who have died in the years after 9/11: New York City Firefighter Luis dePeña of Mount Vernon; New York City Police Officer Nicholas Finelli of Hawthorne; New York City Police Officer Joseph Heid of Yonkers; New York City Detective Joseph Seabrook of Mount Vernon; New York City Detective First Grade James W. Monahan of Ossining; New York City Police Captain Ronald G. Peifer Sr. of Hartsdale; Peekskill Detective Charles Wassil Jr. of White Plains; Yonkers Police Lieutenant Roy McLaughlin of Yonkers; Yonkers Police Officer Anthony Maggiore of Cortlandt; and Fairview Firefighter Robert A. Mentrasti of Greenburgh.
Specifically he cited Battalion Chief Kevin Byrnes Sr, who after 9/11 spent the next years of his life at the Pile on and around Ground Zero, died from lung disease in 2004. He is listed as the fifth NYFD firefighter – and the first from Westchester – to have died from illness related to 9/11. Also noted, was Retired Harrison Officer Walter Mallinson, a K-9 Officer who helped at Ground Zero, who died on September 9 after a long battle with 9/11 related cancer.
During the ceremony, County Executive Astorino was joined by Anne Byrnes, the widow of Battalion Chief Kevin Byrnes Sr., to lay a commemorative wreath on the Beam of Remembrance. Pulled from the ashes of the World Trade Center, the Beam of Remembrance was dedicated in 2013 as “a lasting reminder of our nation’s sacrifice, courage and strength on that fateful day.”
“Along with their names, we will tell the world that the lives we lost to 9/11 are lives that make us all stronger,” said Astorino. “The human spirit is a giving spirit that cannot be extinguished. That is the enduring message of 9/11 that we celebrate each year.”
The Hon. Nita Lowey, NYS Congresswoman gave the Pledge of Allegiance. The National Anthem and Amazing Grace was sung by Soraya Karkari, a SUNY Purchase Student and music was played by The SUNY Purchase Brass Ensemble.
The candlelight ceremony followed a Day of Service with volunteer opportunities taking place throughout the County from Saturday, September 9 through Monday, September 11. Many volunteer projects, as well as a Blood Drive, took place at the County Center in White Plains. The events were organized in partnership with Volunteer New York!, Robison Oil and Empire City Casino with the theme, “Service. Empathy. Unity.”