9/11 20TH ANNIVERSARY CEREMONY AT NORTH BRANCH VOLUNTEER FIRE COMPANY

Thank you for joining us on this very solemn day.  Two decades later the tragic legacy of 9/11 still haunts us and many of us still carry our own personal scars of sorrow and loss from that day.  I realize it is hard to find relevance and meaning in the events of 9/11 and it is difficult to put the day into perspective.

May I suggest that there are two stories of 9/11.  The first and perhaps more prominent story is the  story of approximately 3,000 innocent men and women who perished in the Twin Towers, Pentagon and Flights 77 and 93 by an act of terrorism.  They were targeted because they were Americans and because of an ideology.  A belief in our God given right to political, social, economic, and religious freedom.  This idea of freedom was and still remains a threat to many governments and peoples. 

The men and women who perished that day were innocent in every sense of the word.  They did not control their fate and unfortunately were simply at the wrong place at the wrong time.  They died because they were Americans.  Today we mourn their loss and honor their memory.  They will not be forgotten.

But there is another story of 9/11.  It is the story of the men and women who rushed to help those victims and I believe we can find perspective, relevance and meaning in their story.

Those brave men and women had a choice that day and they made a decision to put themselves in danger to help others.   Ordinary men and women performing extraordinary acts of heroism.   Bear in mind, they did not seek to help only their family or friends.  They did not risk their lives for people based on skin color, religion, culture, or even citizenship.  No, they simply rushed to help a fellow human being in need.

I find this idea of self-sacrifice in the service of others, often total strangers, to be uniquely American and I believe it is borne out of our ideals of freedom.  The very ideology for which we were attacked.   Over 400 emergency responders, police and fire personnel lost their lives that day and unfortunately the number continues to grow as many are battling and succumbing to injuries and illnesses related to the attacks. We may never know the true death toll of 9/11.  Their actions that day unified our country and continue to serve as an example to us.

Now I have no doubt, and God forbid, if there was ever another 9/11 event, this next generation will respond with the same sense of duty and sacrifice.  In fact, we recently saw the same bravery and sacrifice during the recent storm where for close to three straight days these emergency personal here today risked their lives in the service of others performing over 175 rescues.  They did not stop until everyone was safe. 

It is important and appropriate that today we take a moment to acknowledge their sacrifice and on behalf of the Township Committee and all the residents of Branchburg, we thank you for your service and we are proud to call you our own.

I will leave you today with one final thought: as we are bombarded daily by the TV and social media with images of a country being torn apart by political division and social unrest, we should reflect on the actions and sacrifice of the brave men and women of 9/11 and of emergency personal everywhere.   These heroes represent the very best of who we are, and the very best of what we can accomplish.

Their story is OUR story, and it must never be forgotten.  Their lasting legacy will forever stand as a reminder and testament to who we are as a people, a society and most importantly as Americans. 

God bless and thank you,
James Schworn
Deputy Mayor