Originally published in The Rye City Review, September 16, 2016.
By Andrew Dapolite
Moments before the sun set below the tree line on Sunday, Sept. 11, a golden light was cast upon the eastern corner of the Kensico Dam Plaza in Valhalla, where the county’s official 9/11 memorial was erected a decade ago.
Comprised of 109 silver beams pointed to the heavens—one of which is an actual beam pulled from the rubble of the World Trade Center—The Rising memorial pays tribute to the 123 Westchester County lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001 and serves as the gathering place for the county’s annual remembrance ceremony.
This year, hundreds of Westchester residents were in attendance honoring the local victims of the worst terrorist attack in our nation’s history.
Following the presentation of colors by the Westchester County Department of Public Safety and The Pipes and Drums of the Police Emerald Society of Westchester, U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey led the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Family members of 9/11 victims joined Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino in laying the wreath, as Jasmine Bailey, a New Rochelle resident, sang the national anthem.
The first set of remarks was delivered by Westchester County Board of Legislators Chairman Michael Kaplowitz, who stressed the importance of unity in what seems like an increasingly divisive world.
“Every personal story [from 9/11] breaks our hearts, brings tears, recalls memories all of us would like to forget, but are condemned to remember,” Kaplowitz said. “Our Rising ceremony recognizes the collective nature of all 123 Westchester victims.”
Kaplowitz noted that the name of the memorial bears symbolic significance.
“We can rise above our surface differences and remember that far more connects us than divides us,” he said. “This Rising allows for private grieving while recommitting us publicly to stand together to fight hatred in all its forms.”
According to Kaplowitz, the victims’ families deal with the constant realization that their loved ones were “slaughtered in the pursuit of a horribly misguided ideology.”
Astorino offered his own views on how victims of the attacks should be honored in the ways we live our day-to-day lives.
“Today gives us a chance to reflect,” the county executive said. “9/11 is not just a memorial for the dead. Equally, it’s an opportunity for the living. It’s a chance for us to hit the pause button on the overstuffed, overstimulated and over-the-top activities that consume our daily lives, and quietly ask ourselves what are the really important things for us to accomplish during our short time on this earth.”
Family members of the victims joined elected officials in reading the names that are etched onto the memorial.
As the Scarsdale High School Choir and Orchestra provided the final musical accompaniment for the somber event, and darkness fell over the plaza, the only light remaining was appropriately cast upon The Rising memorial in a moment of silence.