Editor's Note: The following is the written version of Bernards Mayor John Malay's speech at the Sept. 11 dedication of the 9/11 firefighters memorial, unveiled on Sunday at the Liberty Corner firehouse. Malay was keynote speaker. His speech, and some of the other speakers and music, was videotaped by the Basking Ridge Patch at the event.
Good afternoon. Thank you for inviting me to speak on this occasion.
As we all know, the facts are these. Ten years ago today America suffered the worst attack on its home soil since Pearl Harbor precipitated us into World War II. 9/11 launched its own war: against a terrorist conspiracy targeting the United States and its people.
More than 2,700 people lost their lives on 9/11 in New York City, 746 from New Jersey. Of that number,341 were firemen, 60 were police and Port Authority police, ten were other medical, rescue and emergency workers. They all knew the situation was dire and that they might not come back. It didn’t matter. They had a job to do and they were going to do it. We will not forget that.
Here in Bernards as the morning wore on, news spread as to what was happening. At first we had hopes that events would come under control and then — suddenly — in a matter of moments we knew they would not. The worst possibility became reality. Here in the township our police worked with county and state officials to secure what they assumed might be further targets: local corporations and, chillingly, our schools. At the time my daughter was a 6th grader at Annin. I will not forget that.
Then began the accounting. Who was missing? Who had been in New York or Washington that day? Who was on a plane? Communications were sketchy, phones overloaded, it took a long while for people to call home.
Here’s what was worst for me. We had to station police officers at the local train stations and bus station parking lots to see which cars were driven off and which remained. The cars that were left behind gradually became grim tokens of the losses we had suffered: some two dozen local residents of our area were gone. They left behind spouses, families, children, friends and neighbors...
But what was intended as an act of terror — while it left horror in its wake — became instead an example of the strength of this country. Individual acts of heroism emerged one after another, and the country and our region reacted collectively as heros.
Our police and our volunteer emergency services joined the effort. Our fire and rescue personnel went to the shores of the Hudson River to render whatever aid they could. I can’t imagine what it must have been like for you to leave your family and your community behind when they were still in turmoil and head towards a situation of unknown proportions with unknown consequences - but you did it, because it is your job and your calling. We will not forget that either.
As I mentioned our police worked to protect the township and provide security. Because that’s what they do.
Our dispatchers handled hundreds of calls providing what information and comfort that they could. In the aftermath our churches and other houses of worship worked with our residents to handle the shock and grief of the events. We got through it.
But we will continue to remember. We will continue to honor the sacrifices of that day and the days that followed. And we will continue to erect monuments of remembrance — not to the horror — but to the heroism of that day and the strength of this country. That is why we are gathered here today.
And again I thank you for inviting me here to share this act of remembrance and the dedication of this monument. I am honored.
God bless you and God bless America.