CRANFORD, N.J. — An entire generation of schoolchildren in town weren’t even alive when terrorists hijacked four planes and flew them into the Twin Towers, the Pentagon and crashed into a field in Pennsylvania.
But the memory of that day is still clear for their parents, older siblings and neighbors in Cranford.
“It’s been 18 years, so Cranford has seen some of our youth that are just starting their freshman year of college weren’t even born prior to Sept. 11,” Mayor Patrick Giblin said at the town’s annual memorial gathering to mark Sept. 11, 2001. “An entire generation has passed. It’s hard to fathom that, how raw it still feels for so many. We remember so clearly the events of that day and the days that followed.”
For many of those students’ grandparents and their contemporaries, 9/11 is reminiscent of the day President John F. Kennedy was shot.
“You remember where you were,” Cranford United Methodist Church pastor Rev. Cameron Overbey said in his Words of Hope Address. “That’s the question on this day, isn’t it? How many times have you asked it? How many times have you answered it, even today?
“But as hours turned into days and days turned into weeks without another major attack, the fear of an imminent threat began to give way to something different, in my experience, and I think in the experience of many.
“It began to give way to a deep appreciation for the human spirit and strength that was on display in every news report from ground zero. The pictures, the videos and stories of those running toward the danger to do whatever they could to help their neighbors.”
Cranford’s annual remembrance is particularly poignant as the town lost six residents in the attacks that day: Dean P. Eberling, Christopher M. Grady, Robert H. Lynch Jr., Gregory Milanowycz, Thomas M. Regan, and Leonard J. Snyder Jr.
The township gathers solemnly at WTC Memorial Park at the corner of Springfield and Union avenues, a stone structure with six pillars, one for each local victim. A candle is lit to honor each of the victims during the program, which also includes a bagpiper, a color guard march, addresses by town officials and clergy, a reading of the names of those who died, the laying of wreaths, a moment of silence and singing “God Bless America.”
Planning the event brings together many components of the Cranford community, including local businesses and houses of worship.
“The entire community pitches in,” said Dottie Baniewicz, treasurer of the World Trade Center Committee of Cranford.
The Cranford Fire and Police departments and First Aid Squad all contribute to the event setup, and local businesses and churches contribute to the organization. The local Boy Scouts even set up the chairs. The day before the event the Fire Department cleans up and weeds the park.
This year, Giblin remembered each of the victims individually.
“Dean Eberling was 44 years old, a securities analyst in the prime of his professional career. He was on the 50th floor of the second World Trade Center.
“Christopher Grady, 39 years old. Worked for Cantor Fitzgerald … an avid sports fan, he left behind a wife, Kelly, and two kids.
“Robert H. Lynch, Jr., 44 years old. Bob, as he was known, he was of the World Trade Centers’ facilities managers, specifically in charge of the elevators. He was described as a can-do guy with a positive attitude, and he left behind a wife and five kids.
“Gregory Milanowycz, 25 years old, young professional, was still living at home with his parents in Cranford. He had a twin brother, his only sibling. He was an insurance broker with Aion, consulting in the South Tower on the third floor.
“Thomas Regan, 43, he was the management director of Aion, proud father of twins. He left behind his wife of seven years.
“Finally, Leonard Snyder Jr, also an insurance broker with Aion. An avid outdoorsman, he loved to hunt, fish, camp. He left behind his college sweetheart, his wife Jenine, and two kids, a 3-year-old and two 2-year-old twins.”
It was a somber moment, punctuated by Rabbi Paul Kerbell, of the Temple Beth-El Mekor Chayim of Cranford, and his “Prayer for Peace.”
“On this 18th anniversary, I urge all of us not only to remember, but to sanctify, life,” he said.