CRANFORD, NJ — Sept. 11, 2020, marked 19 years since the tragic and historic day the 2001 terror attacks changed the American landscape. That day, two hijacked planes crashed into the North and South towers of the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan, the first at 8:46 a.m., killing all passengers on board. Another hijacked plane crashed into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and a fourth, which was headed to the nation’s capital, crashed in a field in Stonycreek, Pa., after passengers overpowered the terrorists.
That unforgettable day, on which approximately 3,000 people died, left its mark on Union County, too, as dozens of county residents who commuted to the World Trade Center for work were killed in the attacks. Cranford lost six residents that day: Dean P. Eberling, 44; Christopher Michael Grady, 39; Robert H. Lynch Jr., 44; Gregory Milanowycz, 25; Thomas M. Regan, 43; and Leonard J. Snyder Jr., 35. Each of these residents was honored at this year’s Sept. 11 ceremony in Cranford.
Cranford’s 2020 Service of Remembrance was held at the World Trade Center Memorial Park at North Union and Springfield avenues, where a large crowd of community members gathered to honor and remember those who died that day.
“It’s an honor to speak here on behalf of the township of Cranford,” Mayor Patrick Giblin said at the ceremony. “To remember the six residents that passed away on Sept. 11, 2001. It’s a testament to the spirit of our community. Nineteen years later, we still come together to remember these residents and to provide a place of comfort for people to remember the awful events of that day.”
Pastor Tom Rice of Cranford Alliance Church said he believes God can reveal beauty from tragedy.
“I think it’s important to do things like this,” Rice said on Sept. 11. “There’s a scripture that says that God can bring beauty out of ashes. It’s nights such as tonight that that comes true. Even something so awful that happened, it’s important to remember. It’s important to come together and it’s important to remember there’s hope.”
World Trade Center Memorial Committee Chairperson Jerry Dobbins spoke about how successful the ceremony was.
“We’ve been doing this for 19 years,” Dobbins said on Sept. 11. “We did a lot for this. This year was very good. The speakers were good. Unfortunately, we couldn’t have the chairs here, but we had a good participation of the whole town here. It was no politics and good camaraderie.”
In addition to Dobbins, the Cranford World Trade Center Memorial Committee consists of treasurer Joan Varanelli, secretary Mimi Cirincione, Dottie Baniewicz, Betty Derasmo, Gerry Grillo, Joseph Nigro and Jeff Scotti.
The memorial monument, held upright with six pillars honoring the six victims, was beautifully illuminated from below. Holding the memorial together was a message atop the monument reading, “Cranford Remembers September 11th.”
During the remembrance ceremony, as the names of the Cranford fallen were read, a bell chimed in memory of each one. There was also a candle lit for each of the six victims, and a prayer was given in honor of their lives.
Robert Lynch was one of the World Trade Center’s many property managers and had worked for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey for 21 years, according to his obituary. He is survived by his wife, Elisabeth, and his three children: Patrick, James and Mark.
Dean Eberling, a securities analyst also known as the “Mountain Bike King,” was trapped in an elevator with a group of colleagues after their building was struck by the hijacked plane; he waited for two women to crawl out a crack between the car doors before making an attempt to escape himself, his obituary read. He is survived by his wife, Amy, and their two children, Cori and Lauren.
According to his obituary, Christopher Michael Grady, a broker at Cantor Fitzgerald, drew people in with his laughter and his boyish high spirits. Grady and his colleagues would often play practical jokes on one another at the office. He is survived by his wife, Kelly, and his two children, Dylan and Kayla.
Gregory Milanowycz, a manager at Aon, is remembered as a bundle of energy by his parents, with whom he lived in Cranford. Milanowycz was also survived by his twin brother, Steven. He loved golfing and being the household handyman; he died while trying to rescue his colleagues in the smoke-filled South Tower.
Thomas Regan was a managing director and sector leader of the pharmaceutical and chemical division of Aon. He is survived by his wife, Gale, and their twin children.
Leonard Snyder, who died in the South Tower, worked on the 101st floor of that building as an insurance broker for Aon. Snyder and colleagues made it to the 76th floor, where they split up. Some crammed into elevators, while others, including Snyder, took the stairs; the group that took the stairs was never seen again. Snyder is survived by his wife, Janine, and his three children: Lauren, Jason and Matthew.
Photos by EmilyAnn Jackman