In wet and cloudy conditions that evoked the day’s somber theme, the Patriot Day event in Mantua’s Chestnut Branch Park marked the 21st anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on America.
Dozens came out to remember what was lost on that day and honor those who lost their lives at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and in a Pennsylvania field.
“On Sept. 11, 2001, our nation saw the face of evil,” said Gloucester County Veteran Affairs Commissioner Director Frank DiMarco. “Yet on that awful day, we also witnessed something distinctly American – ordinary citizens rising to the occasion and responding with extraordinary acts of courage.”
The Patriot Day event took place with an I beam from the twin towers at its center. Not far away, an American flag and the flags of each branch of the armed forces were displayed.
A bell used only to remember 9/11 was rung to mark each time a terrorist-manned plane crashed that day: at the first and second towers; the Pentagon; and in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, after passengers of United Flight 93 wrested control of the plane from hijackers.
There are plaques dedicated to three residents of Gloucester County who lost their lives on 9/11: 39-year-old Mantua resident John Rodak, who worked in the twin towers; 21-year-old equities analyst Nick Brandemarti from West Deptford; and 36-year-old photographer Perry Thompson from Monroe Township.
Brandemarti’s parents were at the Patriot Day event, as was Rodak’s daughter Chelsea Primavera, who was 10 years old on 9/11 and now has a family of her own.
“In the 10 years I got to know my father, I learned several things about him,” she recalled. “He loved fishing, he loved adventures, and he loved sports. He was also very caring and loved his family with all of his heart.
“I’ll always miss my father terribly. My life has been forever changed,” added Primavera, addressing those present at the event. “My advice for you is to hold your loved ones close, because you don’t know when it will be the last time.”
Of the nearly 3,000 people who died on 9/11, 750 were from New Jersey, and nine hailed from South Jersey, including Flight 93 co-pilot Leroy Homer of Marlton.
The Clearview high-school vocal ensemble choir sang renditions of both the national anthem and “Amazing Grace” at the Patriot Day memorial. The school’s marching band also performed.
Among attendees was Mayor Pete Scirrotto, Mullica Hill Mayor Louis Manzo, Gloucester County Veteran Affairs Commission liaison Denise DiCarlo and Congressman Donald Norcross.
“This is a day we will never forget,” said Norcross. “Each of us relives it in our minds. Where you were, what you did and what you were wearing. It’s hard to believe it’s been 21 years. And I look here, to the next generation, and it’s indicative of who we are as a nation.
“We continue, in spite of how difficult it is.”