NANTICOKE — On a sunny, pleasant Monday morning, amid bricks, plaques, benches, engraved dedications and the sound of bagpipes, Luzerne County Community College held its annual Sept. 11 remembrance ceremony.
The event — honoring those who died in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks — took place at the college’s Walk of Honor, not far from the LCCC Public Safety Training Institute.
State Sen. John Yudichak, D-Plymouth Township, said he visits the Walk of Honor often, calling it a beautiful and peaceful place.
“This is a simple, but meaningful patch of ground that is central to who we are as a community here in Luzerne County,” Yudichak said on the 16th anniversary of the attacks. “I am always overwhelmed with emotion as I read the names of our fallen heroes etched into the bricks and mortar of this exceptional monument to America’s best and bravest.”
Yudichak was sure to remember Phyllis Carlo, of the Wanamie section of Newport Township, whose son, Michael Scott Carlo, was one of the nearly 3,000 people who lost their lives during the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers 16 years ago. He was with the Fire Department of New York’s Engine No. 230 — one of those braver than brave souls who ran into the burning buildings in New York City. He was 34 years old.
Mrs. Carlo was unable to attend this year’s ceremony. She donated $20,000 to LCCC to build the Walk of Honor park that honors her son and others. Her other son, Robert, also worked for the FDNY on that fateful day, and survived.
“I cannot walk these solemn grounds without reflecting on NYC Firefighter Michael Carlo and his mother, Phyllis,” Yudichak said. “As 16 years have passed since that fateful September day, I remain inspired by a mother’s love for her son and grateful, deeply grateful that Phyllis Carlo chose this site to honor her son and all the men and women who perished on 9/11.”
Yudichak said Michael Carlo’s bravery, while rare, was not unique on that day.
“From his fellow first-responders to innocent citizens on airplanes … Americans from all walks of life found courage on 9/11 to stare down the face of evil and say not today — not ever,” Yudichak said. “As Americans, we will never bow to the terrorist hand. We will never allow fear and hate to rule this world.”
Yudichak said mothers, like Phyllis Carlo, somehow fought through a painful personal loss and became stronger and more inspiring reminders to all of us of the indomitable American spirit.
“Through the ages, American families have been tested by fascism, communism and radical terrorism, and through the ages we have stood strong because of the spirit that rest in all of us,” he said. “An American spirit that honors its heroes. An American spirit that confronts evil. An American spirit that perseveres against all odds in defense of liberty and justice.”
Yudichak said America may face many challenges, and there is much that divides us, but on the anniversary of 9/11, we mourn together as one nation under God.
“We come together on this day to console one another, to share our stories and memories, to reflect on our past as we bravely and confidently march into the future,” Yudichak said.
At ceremonies held all across the country, Yudichak said Americans are coming together resolved to fight on.
“We fight on in the name of 9/11 heroes like Michael Carlo and in the name of heroes like Phyllis Carlo who used her grief to make us all stronger,” Yudichak said. “We will always fight on for a safer, more prosperous America. Yes, by God’s grace, America will always fight on.”
Also on the program were Thomas P. Leary, president, LCCC; state Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski, D-Wilkes-Barre; William Barrett, director of safety and security at LCCC; and Doug White, U.S. Army veteran and president of the College’s Student Government Association.
The program included the Nanticoke City Police and Fire Departments, representatives of the Hanover Township and Berwick Fire Departments, all serving as honor guards; Brian Orbin, representative, LCCC Student Government Association, who sang the National Anthem; Brian Guerrero, vice president of the Student Government Association, Pledge of Allegiance.
A “Final Alarm” ceremony was led by the Nanticoke City Fire Department Honor Guard. Sgt. Todd Norton, Pennsylvania State Police (retired), played the bagpipes and Rev. James Nash, of St. Faustina Parish, in Nanticoke, gave the invocation and benediction.
Pashinski said 9/11 changed the lives of all Americans and changed the course of humanity.
“On that day, we went from confusion to fear to horror to outrage to anger to resolve to determination and to courage to fight back,” Pashinski said. “The amazing heroism of the first responders, running into buildings to save so many lives, helped us to believe that it would all be better again one day.”
Leary said America lost its innocence on Sept. 11, 2001.
“On that day, we realized 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 naive about our vulnerability, we as a country became more determined and more united in our national pride.”
Leary also said America gained a renewed respect for the first responders who risk their lives daily to protect us.
“Watching the police officers, firefighters and emergency medical technicians put aside their own safety to rescue and treat victims of the Sept. 11 attacks gave us an all too real understanding of what the brave public servants of our own communities do on a daily basis.”