Friday, September 10, 2010

A Small Town Honors 10 Who Died

I went home.

Home is where you sit down and the place itself speaks to you.

In my small hometown, what’s new always stands out because much stays the same.

As I walked around, I saw a new park with benches and a stone tablet in a semicircle, dappled with sunlight and shade, just off the main street and across from the railroad station where trains come and go into New York City.

The park is a memorial for those in the town of Pelham, N.Y., who were killed on September 11: ten people from a town of 12,000.

Two men, brothers, worked at Cantor Fitzgerald, a global financial services firm which lost over 650 of its employees from their offices at the top of the World Trade Center.

Daniel Shea, 37, and Joseph Shea, 47, were fathers to seven children.

New York Fire Department Lt. Joseph G. Leavey was 46. One of the emergency responders, he reached the 78th floor of one of the twin towers. Radio transmissions identify his voice as one of the last to be heard taking and giving instructions to firefighters rescuing people and putting out fires on the upper floors. Those who’ve heard the tape remark that the firefighters’ voices are professional and calm. It’s meant a lot to their families to know that.

Lt. Leavey and his wife and three children belonged to the parish church of my childhood.

Robert C. McLaughlin, 29, also worked at Cantor Fitzgerald. His son was nine months old. Montgomery Hord also worked at Cantor Fitzgerald. He had three children. Robert Scandole, a graduate of St. Johns University, was 36, and a trader at Cantor Fitzgerald. He was the father of two girls. Michael A. Tamuccio was 37, vice president of equity trading for Fred Alger Management.

Amy O’Doherty, 23, who grew up and went to high school here had just graduated from St. Bonaventure University in upstate New York and was working in her first job after college at Cantor Fitzgerald and living in a fifth-floor walkup apartment in New York City.

Michael Boccardi, 30, an Eagle Scout and Scoutmaster was a vice president for institutional relations at Fred Alger Management.

Thomas Hynes, 28, had graduated from my high school. He was an account manager at Vestek Division of Thomson Financial. He proposed to his wife at the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. In September 2001, she was expecting their first child.

I walk from bench to bench where their names are inscribed. The sadness and honor and dignity of this quiet park envelop me.

The park was dedicated in May 2007, six years after the tragedy. It took some time for the plans to come to fruition in this small town and for the funding to come about through grants and donations. A granite memorial stone bears a quotation from Charles de Gaulle. The benches surround an oval area with a single flowering dogwood tree. The tree was chosen “as a symbol of beauty that remains during and after sorrow.”

Each year a remembrance is held there.

As a daughter of this town, I am so grateful for what those who worked for this memorial park have done. Because when I come home the place speaks to me of ordinary people whose lives are cherished, remembered and mourned. Of ordinary people like Lt. Leavey who became heroes when that was unexpectedly asked of them one day when they went to work. Of fathers who took a train to work every day and were the bright light of their families every evening when they came home. And of the children through whom their brightness will still illuminate the world.

Gretchen Keiser, Editor

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