MONTGOMERY – Orange County’s annual 9/11 Memorial Service hosted hundreds in a socially-distant ceremony Friday evening. The community turnout was comparable to those of past years despite uncertainty due to the pandemic.
Orange County Director of Veteran Services Christian Farrell said the concerns for turnout this year were real, but it was comforting to see the community prioritize remembering those who had died as a result of the attack during a time where they aren’t doing other things like dining out or going to the movies. It proved the words “never forget” are not empty coming from those within the county.
“I wasn’t sure what to expect,” said Farrell. “It’s a day that, obviously, we’ve never forgotten; but, during this year we won’t forget either, it was great to see the entire lawn full of people just like any other year,” he said.
This year’s ceremony featured William Bratton Jr. who lost his daughter in the attacks. Michelle, who was 23 years old, was working for Cantor Fitzgerald in Tower One and was trapped above the fires, a grim situation of which very few survived.
Retire FDNY Captain Robert Rainey, who now works for the World Trade Center Health Treatment Program, said important stories like Bratton’s and ceremonies that honor those who had perished are imperative to have no matter what the circumstances and they mean a lot to those who were involved.
“There’s things that you just don’t give up, no matter what the situation,” said Rainey. “It’s heartwarming to see people have made that choice: not to give up on this. It means a lot to us who were involved in the search and rescue operations,” he said.
Orange County is home to a large population of veterans and first responders, some of those were among the 44 county members, including Michelle, who had died in the attacks. These individuals’ bravery, memory, and service are held in high esteem, especially in Orange, so County Executive Steve Neuhaus said there was no doubt they would have the ceremony, despite the pandemic.
“We said, ‘No way. We’re doing it, no matter what happens.’ It’s just too important for the county,” said Neuhaus. “44 people from here passed away. I’ve met people who moved, now, into Orange County that have lost husbands and wives, so you need to have something, especially when you have New York City changing their program this year,” he said.
In regards to the changes with NYC’s program changes, they are having Tunnels for Towers, a private organization, do the tower lighting in Manhattan after the World Trade Center Museum canceled due to COVID 19. The county and members of the local business community have taken it upon themselves to hold their own tower light demonstration at the Emergency Services Center, reminiscent of the usual Manhattan lighting: two beams of light aimed toward the sky, following the 9/11 Memorial Ceremony.
Just over the border in Sullivan County, a memorial service was held in Wurtsboro. It can be viewed below.