The trees at Cooper River Park were lit in red, white and blue on Sept. 10, as visitors gathered for Camden County’s 20th anniversary candlelight remembrance of 9/11.
On a field near the vigil site were two memorials with names of those who had perished in the terrorist attacks 20 years ago. Beams of light were aimed at the sky at the memorial and would continue to shine for three days.
Commissioner Jonathan Young recalled hearing the news on 9//11 that hijacked planes had hit the World Trade Center and realizing the country was under attack. He also remembered the acts of heroism and service that followed.
“Whether they were on duty, off duty, or from neighboring states, all [first responders] that could be there converged on the scene, without thoughts of their own safety,” Young said. “They responded not just that day, but for days to come. It was their duty, what they trained for, and what they knew they needed to do.”
Congressman Donald Norcross reflected on how the country came together in the aftermath.
“Instead of looking for something to divide you and make you different and make you not like a person, it was the exact opposite,” Norcross noted. “ It was, it is, the greatest part of this great country. Out of many, one. That we help each other no matter what.
“We as a country came together that day to help each other.”
On the stage at the vigil, a table was set for one and decorated with a white tablecloth, a red rose in a vase with a yellow ribbon tied to it, a plate with a lemon slice and another with salt, a glass turned upside down, the Bible and a lit candle.
Air Force veteran and American Legion member Bernie Kofoet explained how the table was meant to recognize prisoners of war or those missing in action. Each item represented something different, from the small size of the table symbolizing one prisoner’s frailty against oppressors, to the slice of lemon meant as a reminder of his or her bitter fate. With each item’s symbolism read out loud, Kofoet called on the crowd to remember.
“The glass is turned over; they cannot toast with us tonight,” he said. “The chair is empty. They are not here.”
Later in the memorial, Camden County Veterans Affairs Director Ted Gallagher and Chief James Jankowski, of the county’s Department of Public Safety, announced a new War on Terror Award medal and certificates, honors which were presented to families in attendance, and for which the Office of Veteran Affairs will soon start accepting applications online.
To be eligible, an individual must be a veteran or a person on active duty who served after 9/11; a member of the public-safety community who was among first responders to the attacks; and a resident of Camden County. Widows and family members can receive a medal posthumously.
At the end of the park ceremony, roses were handed to families who had lost a loved one in the attacks and they were escorted to the field tribute.
A full list of names being remembered can be found at https://www.camdencounty.com/service/veterans-affairs/9-11vigil/.