NANTICOKE — Tuesday marked the 17th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on America and the annual remembrance ceremony at Luzerne County Community College managed to capture all aspects of what that dreadful day meant then and in the years since.
The ceremony, at the college’s Walk of Honor at the LCCC Public Safety Training Institute, remembered those lost on 9/11 and their families and it paid tribute to all first responders who put their lives on the line every day. The event also emphasized how the tragic day galvanized the country and, over time, made it stronger and more diligent in protecting our freedoms and renewing our patriotism.
“Tuesday, September 11, 2001, is a day that has left an indelible mark on America,” said state Rep. Gerald Mullery, D-Newport Township. “The loss of life and the toll taken on the survivors who were injured physically and those scarred emotionally will never be forgotten.”
Mullery remembers 9/11 and being shown faces shrouded in fear trying to comprehend a level of chaos that is still hard to explain.
“It is painful to remember that day,” he said. “A day in which everyday people were going about their regular routines and in an instant their lives would forever be changed.”
Mullery recalled a quote from Robert F. Kennedy, “tragedy is a tool for the living to gain wisdom, not a guide by which to live.”
“This sentiment rang true based upon what followed and remains the true spirit of what our nation was built on,” Mullery said. “We will never forget the heroes and rays of hope that peaked through our time of frustration and despair. We will never forget the first responders who set aside their own safety to save the lives of others. We will never forget the countless men and women who served in our armed forces to defend our freedoms in its aftermath. We will never forget seeing Americans from all walks of life comforting one another as if they were not strangers. We all shared in the grief for those affected by the tragedy.”
Mullery said the memory of 9/11 must not remain only words and pictures of another time. He said we must share with future generations the valor of thousands of people in the face of calamity in New York City, at the Pentagon in Washington, and in the sky above western Pennsylvania on Flight 93.
“I hope we are able to impress upon them the heroes, who had their own set of hopes and dreams, yet sacrificed it all for the highest purpose — risking their own lives so that others might live,” Mullery said. “That’s the lasting impression September 11 should leave on us all. A permanent memory not of destruction, but hope among us — that in the face of great tragedy we bore witness during its aftermath to great hope and resilience.”
‘Lost our innocence’
LCCC President Thomas Leary said nearly 3,000 innocent people lost their lives and 6,000 more were injured on 9/11.
“In a sense, we lost our innocence as we realized that we were not immune to the mass violence and senseless killings that we previously believed only happened somewhere else,” Leary said. “Although we became less naïve about our vulnerability, we, as a country, became more determined and more united in our national pride.”
State Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski, D-Wilkes-Barre, said Americans experienced a wide range of emotions — from confusion to horror to fear to outrage to anger and then revenge.
“But then those feelings gave way to change, a change to different feelings in the aftermath,” Pashinski said. “Feelings of courage, of determination, of unity and of hope. That’s what we saw after September 11.”
Pashinski said the memories of 9/11 bring back sadness for those lost that day.
“But how can they not also instill a feeling of hope and unity in all of us?” he asked. “How can they not remind us that even in our darkest hour, there are good people who run into dangerous situations to help others?”
Walk of Honor
Leary said the LCCC Walk of Honor was inspired by Mrs. Phyllis Carlo of Wanamie, who wanted to memorialize her son, Michael Scott Carlo, a New York City firefighter who lost his life on 9/11 in the World Trade Center.
On the 17th anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy, six were added to the Walk of Honor to pay tribute to the impact they made in our lives and in the community:
• Melanie Mizenko, a talented journalist at the Times Leader and a steadfast volunteer for the Alumni Association.
• Joseph R. Kandrovy, Army veteran, 1970 LCCC graduate and retired school teacher.
• Robert Komnath, a faculty member at LCCC for 36 years.
• Len Brudnicki, a Nanticoke native.
• Colleen McGurk, who was a music recording technology student at LCCC.
• JD Skoniecki, who was 19 when he died unexpectedly. In 2010, Justin participated in the Walk of Honor dedication ceremony as a Boy Scout and last year as a firefighter.
Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.