Union Township family remembers loved one lost in NYC sixteen years ago on Sept. 11

Photo by Rebecca Panico
Yasmine Leon holds a framed photograph of her sister, Adianes Cortes-Oyola, during a 9/11 memorial ceremony at the Union Township fire headquarters on Monday.

UNION, NJ — Time has helped one family cope with the passing of Adianes Cortes-Oyola, who grew up in Union Township and died in the South Tower on Sept. 11, 16 years ago.

“There’ll be tears of course, but it’s gotten easier with time,” said Yasmine Leon, who held a framed photograph of her stepsister while attending a remembrance ceremony at Union Township Headquarters on Monday. “I always used to say that this day, it’s like a wound that’s healed with a Band-Aid and then you rip the Band-Aid off and it’s all over again every year.”

Cortes-Oyola was 23 years old at the time of the attacks and had been married for one year to her husband, who also worked at the World Trade Center. He made it out that day, Leon said.

“She was called back to her station with her job because they didn’t know what was happening,” Leon said of her stepsister. “She went back to her office and she spoke to her husband and that was the last anybody ever heard from her.”
A number of other 9/11 remembrance ceremonies took place throughout Union County.

A memorial was held at Echo Lake Park on the border of Mountainside and Springfield to honor 60 Union County residents who died in the attacks.

Some townships held memorials to remember local residents who died. Clark held a ceremony at Nelson Memorial Park Monday morning to remember James Nelson, one of its own residents.

Sixteen years after the terrorist attacks in New York City, Washington and Pennsylvania, 9/11 ceremonies have begun to take on a different meaning as a new generation of first responders begins to take the ranks.

“I feel there’s a big difference especially in the fire service between always remember and never forget,” Union Township Fire Chief Michael Scanio said. “We do this remembrance ceremony for the guys who weren’t part of the fire service that day. Maybe they got hired in 2002 or 2003, after the 9/11 tragedy occurred.”

Scanio was deployed with about 30 other Union Township fire fighters to a Bay Ridge firehouse in Brooklyn as backup after the attacks. He said those who were deployed that day will “never forget” the experience.

“I’ll never forget some of those images, driving over to that Brooklyn firehouse and that pile of smoke, that smoke coming up from the pile of what was the World Trade Center,” Scanio said after a remembrance ceremony in Union Township. “I’ll never get that out of my head.”
Police Director Daniel Zieser wasn’t employed in Union Township on the day of the attacks, he said. However, Port Authority Police Inspector Anthony Infante Jr., Zieser’s former partner at the Newark Police Department, died that day.

“Almost 29 years to the minute we got sworn in to the Newark Police Department,” Zieser said. “I have a picture at home of us getting sworn in. The clock on the wall says 10:35. He was killed in the building that dropped at 10:28. It’s kind of a bittersweet anniversary day for me.”
Union Township Deputy Mayor Joseph Florio, who has been attending memorial ceremonies in the township since they began, said that larger ceremonies were previously held in front of Town Hall on the 10th and 15th anniversary of the attacks for families who lost loved ones.

Monday’s ceremony was held by the local police and fire departments to honor the service of first responders. About 20 members from the Union Police and Fire departments attended the ceremony, along with Union County Sheriff Joseph Cryan and Freeholder Vernell Wright.

“I think it’s a very great ceremony they have,” Florio said. “It’s very touching when you hear all the police and fire and first responders who just went into those buildings when they were coming down. I think we have to remember those people who are really heroes.”

Gov. Chris Christie ordered all state buildings to fly flags at half-staff on Monday to recognize the lives lost on 9/11. The governor also marked the day as “Patriot Day and National Day of Service and Remembrance” throughout the state.