UNION, NJ — This past Sunday marked the 15th anniversary of 9/11, the worst terrorist attack to be carried out on U.S. soil. Close to 3,000 people were killed and more than 6,000 injured on that fateful day. Nine Union residents died that day, and on Friday evening, Sept. 9, Union residents gathered at the steps of town hall to remember and pay tribute to them, and to all of those who perished in the attacks.
During the ceremony, a candle was lit for each of the nine Union victims.
Those remembered include Bella Bhukhan, 24, who worked at Cantor-Fitzgerald, Edward Calderon, 44, an ex-Marine who worked in the Operation Control Center at the World Trade Center, and Wing-Wai Ching, 29, who worked at You & Me Voice; Thomas Fisher, 36, who was VP of Operations at Fiduciary Trust International, Brian Goldberg, 26, also at Fiduciary Trust International, Robert Hepburn, 39, Charles Karczewski, 34, who worked at Aeon Corporation, Wayne Russo, 37, an accountant at Marsh and McLennan, and Khalid Mohammad Shahid, 25, who worked at Cantor-Fitzgerald.
The ceremony included a presentation of colors by the Union High School ROTC, the reading of a poem by Cadet Adnan Oudeh, and “Tears in Heaven,” performed by Rich Kubicz. The keynote address was given by former Union Mayor Peter Capodice, who served as Union’s mayor during 9/11.
Union mayor Manuel Figueiredo shared his thoughts about that tragic day with LocalSource. “I think that 9/11 was a very sobering moment, not just for those whose lives, homes, families and loved ones were destroyed in New York City, but for all of us across America,” Figueiredo said in an email. “The United States has always been thought of as one of the most powerful countries in the world. As a result, the thought of war being waged on the United States, right here on our own soil, is something that I believe was far from any of our minds. And so, on that day, not only were we forced to, as a nation, guard ourselves a bit more closely, but as individuals we were reminded of how fragile and unpredictable life can be.”
According to Figueiredo, the loss of so many Union residents was a shocking tragedy for the community. “Every day, we see terrible things playing out in the world and I think that many of us think that such terrors could never happen to us,” said Figueiredo. “Sept. 11 was proof that the effects of tragedy have no limits.
They don’t discriminate based on race, color, wealth or religion. And so it was right here in Union. A tremendous sense of shock, disbelief and regret that our neighbors and friends could have been one of the many that were lost. And, more importantly, a reinvigorated sense of community and appreciation for human life. Many of those who perished in the attacks were young and hadn’t yet begun to have children. Our intention is more so to recognize the coming-of-age of the generation of children who were born in that era, and instill in them the same sense of reverence for an event that they, in the flesh, cannot recall.”
Figueiredo spoke eloquently about those born in the post-9/11 era. “Watching that particular generation grow up makes me hopeful,” he said. “While the tragedies that have mounted in their lifetime continue to shock and cause devastation, and as someone who spent time teaching this same demographic, I see in them the potential for a greater future. I see energy, innovation, big dreams and best of all a generation of people who have championed the idea that our differences are what makes us stronger.”
Union Deputy Mayor Suzette Cavadas spoke with Local
Source about the personal pain of the families of the nine Union victims. “It’s hard to believe that 15 years has already passed since the 9/11 attacks,” Cavadas said in an email. “For people like you and me, the memory of that day is certainly emotional. But we have friends and neighbors, right here in town, who live with the loss, pain and regret that was inflicted on their lives every day. I am proud that the Township of Union can host an event like this so that they — the families and friends of those nine people — know that we stand with them, committed to never forgetting the memory of their loved ones.”
Figueiredo said that the lesson of 9/11 is a powerful one. “I think our message is clear,” said Figueiredo. “Not only should we never forget the victims of Sept. 11 or those who put their lives on the line to aid search and rescue efforts, but to never forget how destructive and divisive the power of fear and hate can be. Let us not forget how quickly the flame of humanity can be extinguished, and let us not forget that tragedy can strike on the clearest and sunniest of days.”
About 100 residents came out to pay tribute and remember the victims, including Union County Freeholder Vernell Wright, Union County Sheriff Joseph Cryan, township committee members Suzette Cavadas, Joseph Florio, Clifton People, Jr. and Michele Delisfort, and Union police and fire personnel.