A solemn ceremony at the Wilton Firehouse on Monday morning marked the 22nd anniversary of the national 9/11 tragedy at the World Trade Center in New York City.
With acknowledgment to the five Wilton residents who died that day — along with the thousands of others who lost lives in the events of 2001 and subsequently, through work on the site at Ground Zero — Wilton’s emergency personnel, area officials and members of the public took part in a service of remembrance.
“We all have memories of that day,” said U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, who was in New York on Sept. 11, 2001.
“I happened to be working just a couple of blocks from the World Trade Center … It was very clear, even from that first moment, that this wasn’t an accident,” he said, recalling the chaos that included smoke, ash, and myriad sheets of paper that continued perpetually fluttering down to the ground.
Veteran Firefighter Dave Chaloux was among a small contingency that left from Wilton that morning to help in New York, where they had learned many of their brethren were missing or dead.
“We just went down to help any way we could. That’s really as simple as it is,” he said, noting he had many memories of that day but didn’t want to share any of them.
“Probably the message would be that the firefighter community is pretty tight-knit and we want to help each other out as much as we can,” he said.
Chaloux made the trip with several others, including retired Capt. Kevin Czarnecki, whose parents come each year to attend the Wilton ceremony.
“We’ve come every year since 9/11 just out of respect to the people that died,” Pat Czarnecki said.
“I remember him calling us that night,” she said. “He slept on the street on a piece of cardboard … The things that he told us were terrible.”
First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice centered her remarks not only on remembering the victims, but acknowledging the town’s emergency personnel.
“I want to honor you all too, and say, ‘Thank you from the community,'” she told the many EMS, fire, and police in attendance.
Vanderslice also highlighted the growing number of post-9/11 victims.
“I’ll be honest, I was disturbed on Friday to read in the news that almost as many FDNY members have died of Ground Zero-related illnesses as died on September 11 — 341 versus 343,” she said.
“As of this June, there were 85,954 living responders who have been diagnosed with one or more diseases certified to be as a result of responding,” Vanderslice added.
“These are statistics, but each is a person — a person who had or has family or friends or partners whose lives were also changed forever,” Vanderslice said. “When you think about the scope of the human toll, it is hard to take it in.”
Remarks also came from Paul Niche, American Legion Post 86 commander, who highlighted the American flag as a symbol of unity that was displayed during the aftermath.
“This is the only symbol representing each and every American, regardless of race, creed, color or sexual orientation,” he said.
“As a nation, we came together under that flag … We need to recall and remember and live that patriotism every day and move away from the divisiveness and partisanship gripping our nation today,” he said.